Council Tax- Application to Commit (Reg.47 CTAE Regs. 1992)- Authority for Variation of Statutory Instrument

Currently waiting for a response from Her Majesty’s Courts and the Tribunals Service, they must respond promptly and normally no later than (details).

Dear Her Majesty’s Courts and the Tribunals Service,

On Wednesday 6th December 2017, a question was asked at a monthly public Forum meeting convened by the London Borough of Redbridge at the Karamsar Centre ,High Road, Ilford (Ironically, the former Ilford County Court). The questioner referred to an Application for Commitment to Prison made by the London Borough of Redbridge at Redbridge Magistrates Court on 19th october 2017, morning session in Court 4, which was refused by the Justices and withdrawn by the London Borough of Redbridge as flagrantly in breach of Regulation 47 of the Council Tax Administration and Enforcement Regulations, 1992. The London Borough of Redbridge had failed to issue a summons to the Council Tax alleged debtor and had also tried to charge him £245 for doing so,even though it had not
The London Borough of Redbridge has published it's officer answer to this Forum question on it's public website ( Minutes, Forum 6th December, Question 15): which states:

" 15. On Thursday 19th October at a Magistrates Court a gentleman was being charged for not paying council tax. This gentleman had not received a summons. The council do not send appropriate summons to people. The letters it sends out do not appropriately inform residents of the situation they are in, therefore those being summoned do not come with legal aid or appropriate preparation.
People have been unlawfully imprisoned because of this and the practice needs to change. Redbridge appear to be doing this to dodge the court fee.

Answer provided by Peter Ratnarajah, Operational Director Revenue and Benefits

As part of the recovery process, summons are issued in order to obtain liability orders to those taxpayers who fail to make payments, despite reminders and 7 day notices. These liability orders will allow the Council to take further recovery action. If the taxpayer continues to default payments then the Council can take further action through the Court. When this happens, with the agreement with the Magistrates’ Court, there is a process in place to issue a letter to the taxpayer inviting them to attend a means enquiry hearing. This letter explains the purpose of the hearing and what the potential outcomes are. The Council does not charge for this letter. This arrangement has been in place not only for Redbridge but also for other neighbouring Councils who use the Magistrates Court. The Council could under regulation 48(5), issue a warrant in the first instance, however, in order to avoid costs being raised in respect of issuing a committal summons, which in turn are passed on to the taxpayer, the Council, with the Court’s agreement, has followed this practice. If the debtor fails to attend Court the Council then applies for a warrant. For the case in question, the Council had followed the above procedure as agreed by the Court and the taxpayer had previously appeared before the Magistrates on 10/08/17 but the matter was adjourned. However, when the taxpayer returned to Court on 19/10/17 the Court Legal Adviser decided that the taxpayer needs to be served with a summons to attend Court. This is a change in their agreed procedure but failed to inform the Council of this change. As a result of this change in procedure the Council will now issue summonses for committal hearings".

There is no facility in law for a means hearing to be held for Council Tax debts before Justices other than as a part of an Application to Commit made under Reg 47, CTAE Regs. 1992. Case Law is consistent on this and the actions of the Clerk of Court and the Justices were consistent both with the CTAE regs and the case law.

Please provide the following information:
1) Could a Council Tax debtor be brought before Redbridge Magistrates Court for a means hearing other than by the procedure set out in Reg. 47 of CTAE Regs. 1992?

2) Could the Council Tax debtor be brought before Redbridge Magistrates Court without payment of the relevant Court Fee, believed currently to be £245 for Application to Commit?

3) Could a Council Tax debtor be required to attend before Justices at redbridge Magistrates Court on Application Commit without the London Borough of Redbridge issuing a summons clearly stating it was an Application for Commitment to Prison to the Council Tax debtor?

4) Reference is made by Mr. P.Ratnarajah ("When this happens, with the agreement with the Magistrates’ Court, there is a process in place to issue a letter to the taxpayer inviting them to attend a means enquiry hearing. This letter explains the purpose of the hearing and what the potential outcomes are. ") to an arrangement with Redbridge Magistrates Court. Please identify:
i) When this arrangement was made?
ii) Which officers of HMCTS made the arrangement? Similarly,with which officers of the London Borough of Redbridge was it made?
iii) What is the authority in law for Justices to hold a means hearing for Council Tax debtors other than Reg 47 (and 48) of CTAE Regs 1992?
iV) Please provide a copy of the arrangement.

5) Mr. P.Ratnarajah states that the arrangement was changed without notice by Redbridge Magistrates Court ("However, when the taxpayer returned to Court on 19/10/17 the Court Legal Adviser decided that the taxpayer needs to be served with a summons to attend Court. This is a change in their agreed procedure but failed to inform the Council of this change. ")
Is this true?

nota bene- Please note that this FOI request refers to Application to Commit to Prison- Reg. 47 (and 48) CTAE Regs. 1992. It does NOT refer to Council Tax Liability Orders, although Mr. Ratnarajah seems confused (or trying to confuse) the two.

Yours faithfully,

BERT GEISHERD

London RSU Kilo,

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Geisherd
 
Please see attached an acknowledgement to your Freedom of Information
request
 
Regards
 

Knowledge & Information Liaison Officer

HMCTS | London & South East Regional Support Unit

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London RSU Kilo,

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Geisherd

 

Please see attached an amended acknowledgement to your Freedom of
Information request

 

Regards

 

Knowledge & Information Liaison Officer

HMCTS | London & South East Regional Support Unit

 

This e-mail (and any attachment) is intended only for the attention of
the addressee(s). Its unauthorised use, disclosure, storage or copying
is not permitted. If you are not the intended recipient, please destroy
all
copies and inform the sender by return e-mail.

Internet e-mail is not a secure medium. Any reply to this message
could be intercepted and read by someone else. Please bear that in
mind when deciding whether to send material in response to this message
by e-mail.

This e-mail (whether you are the sender or the recipient) may be
monitored, recorded and retained by the Ministry of Justice. E-mail
monitoring / blocking software may be used, and e-mail content may be
read at any time. You have a responsibility to ensure laws are not
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