Pacifist won’t pay council tax as it ‘helps fund war’

Hedley Lester, 57, who has refused to pay his council tax to Havant Borough Council because he says it is contributing to the war in Afghanistan
Hedley Lester, 57, who has refused to pay his council tax to Havant Borough Council because he says it is contributing to the war in Afghanistan
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AN ANTI-war campaigner is refusing to pay his council tax because he says it is contributing to an ‘illegal and immoral war’ abroad.

Hedley Lester, 57, intends to take his case to the High Court and is refusing to pay Havant Borough Council any money until Britain ends involvement in places like Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.

Mr Lester has refused to pay more than £1,000 for his Band B property in Leckford Road, West Leigh, Havant, over the past year.

Council officials brought a case against Mr Lester and he appeared before Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

Mr Lester told the court that domestic and international laws stipulate that when war is illegal, the collection and payment of council tax to the government is a war crime.

Mr Lester argued that the money going to Havant council went into a central pot of government cash.

He told magistrates: ‘International law applicable to the UK as well as our own domestic legislation forbids me from becoming party to criminal acts being committed on an ongoing basis by the UK government.

‘It overrides any otherwise lawful requirement placed upon me by UK government. I submit it is beyond the scope of the powers of any public body, in this case Havant Borough Council, to require anyone to commit a crime.’

He added: ‘I am not trying to achieve national chaos. I am trying to achieve the end of this country’s illegal and immoral use of war.’

Richard Gath, assistant revenues manager for Capita business services, represented Havant council.

He gave Mr Lester a list of all the services provided by local authorities such as road sweeping and bin collections.

He said: ‘What you are saying is that council tax goes to central government.

‘It goes on the local services the council provides.’

The council applied for a liability order, which was granted by the magistrates.

Chairman of the bench, David Horne, said the defence of breach of international war laws was not applicable in a magistrates’ court.

‘It’s for another place,’ he told Mr Lester.

Mr Lester must pay £1,122.56 and was ordered to pay £80 for court costs. He intends to appeal against the decision.

Mr Lester, a full-time carer and a former property developer, is currently living at Winstanley Road, Stamshaw, and has separate legal proceedings with Portsmouth City Council.

After the hearing, he said: ‘My case is that to pay the demanded money would involve me and any of the council’s agents in serious crimes.’

His case is being supported by the Campaign to Make Wars History.

Chairman Chris Coverdale said: ‘As a grandfather, I personally find it difficult to sleep at night knowing that by paying tax I am taking part in Britain’s unlawful wars and causing the deaths of thousands of other people’s children and grandchildren.

‘The Campaign to Make Wars History submitted evidence in 2011 on this issue to Parliament and we fully endorse Mr Lester in his arguments.’

Officials at the council said they had a duty to collect council tax.

Mike Ball, service manager for revenues and benefits at Havant Borough Council, said: ‘The council has a duty to collect council tax from those liable to pay it and, where necessary, will seek to obtain a Liability Order from the Magistrates’ Court. A Liability Order makes various remedies available to the council so that it can collect the debt.’

Havant is in charge of collecting tax, but the money is divided up between police, the fire service and county council.