END COUNCIL TAX IMPRISONMENT

Poverty is Not a Crime

As hard as it is to believe, between 2010 and 2017, nearly 700 people were sent to prison for not paying their council tax. Many have not defaulted on their debt voluntarily - they found themselves unable to pay due to a lack of resources.

The Centre for Criminal Appeals have represented and won on appeal a number of cases of women imprisoned for the non-payment of council tax. Many of these women were bailed from prison and their prison sentence found unlawful.

Even a short time in prison can have a serious detrimental impact on mental health and social circumstances for women and their children. Prison can cause women to become homeless, have their children taken away and struggle to recover from the trauma of the experience

It's time to end sending women to prison for civil offences such as the non-payment of council tax.

Not only is this Dickensian, we are getting it wrong

Evidence now shows that year after year there have been significant numbers of miscarriages of justice with people being unlawfully imprisoned for non-payment of council tax. A recent high court judgement showed that at minimum, between 9.5% and 18% of people sent to prison for council tax non-payment, are sent there unlawfully. 

This is likely to be one of the largest mass miscarriage of justice in British history

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Who does this harm?

Melanie Woolcock, is a single mother and was caring for an elderly neighbour when she lost her job and fell behind on her council tax payments. She was not being neglectful or refusing to pay, she simply did not have the money. Despite this, she was sentenced to 81 days in prison. Finding support from the Centre for Criminal Appeals, her release on bail was secured and subsequently her imprisonment ruled unlawful.

Melanie should never have been sent to prison. Prison is not the way to manage poverty. 

Hear Melanie speak about her experience on BBC Wales here

 

What can you do?

Please write to your MP and encourage them to:

1. Sign Early Day Motion 926, supporting the abolition of the use of imprisonment for council tax non-payment.

2. Support us by raising unlawful imprisonments for council tax debt to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, and the Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke.

 Melanie Woodcock spent 40 days in prison before being released

Melanie Woodcock spent 40 days in prison before being released


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Find your MP

You can find your local MP using this link.

Copy the draft text into an email

For ease, we have included some draft text you can send on the right.

Personalise, then send

Be sure to include your name and postcode in the email so they know you are a constituent.

Copy any responses to us

If your MP emails you back, please forward their email to naima.sakande@criminalappeals.org.uk. We want to keep track of our supporters so we can lobby them for change!

 

THANK YOU for your help in fighting for justice!!

Draft email

"Dear MP,

I am writing as your constituent to raise that as hard as it is to believe, between 2010 and 2017, nearly 700 people were sent to prison for not paying their council tax. Many have not defaulted on their debt voluntarily - they found themselves unable to pay due to a lack of resources. In a recent case the Centre for Criminal Appeals (CCA) represented a single mother who in caring for an elderly neighbour fell behind on her council tax and was sentenced to 81 days in prison. CCA successfully appealed her sentence, she was released from prison and her imprisonment was ruled unlawful. she should never have had to spend time behind bars for being poor. 

Evidence now shows that year after year there have been significant numbers of miscarriages of justice with people being unlawfully imprisoned for non-payment of council tax.  We believe this might be the largest mass miscarriage of justice in British history - the High Court has acknowledged that up to 18% of council tax imprisonments in the last year may have been unlawful. Even a short time in prison can have a serious detrimental impact on mental health and social circumstances for women and their children. Prison can cause women to become homeless, have their children taken away and struggle to recover from the trauma of the experience.

An Early Day Motion (http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2017-19/926) has been tabled - EDM 926 - please support this important issue by becoming a signatory. 

If you are unable to sign the EDM, please support us by raising unlawful imprisonments for council tax debt to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, and the Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke asking that: 

  1. The provision enabling imprisonment for failure to pay Council Tax is abolished; 
  2. Those wrongfully imprisoned be informed and supported to seek redress for having their lives irrevocably and detrimentally affected by imprisonment;
  3. The upcoming Women's Justice Strategy centres on a plan to reduce the women's prison population and includes a commitment to end imprisonment for civil offences such as non-payment of council tax.

The law charity the Centre for Criminal Appeals are leading the call for council tax reform. Support them by signing the EDM, tweeting @C4CrimAppeals and using the hashtag #povertyisnotacrime.

Women in Prison is leading on the 2020 Ambition to reduce the women’s prison population to 2,020 by 2020, in which an end to sending women to prison for offences such as the non-payment of Council Tax is key. To pledge your support for the 2020 Ambition please reply to this email, tweet @WIP_live or go to www.WIP2020.org.uk.

It is time to end to imprisonment for council tax non-payment. Poverty is not a crime."

If you or a loved one are a woman and are being threatened with imprisonment for council tax non-payment, please get in touch with Naima Sakande, Women's Justice Advocate, on naima.sakande@criminalappeals.org.uk. We may be able to help.