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Child victims of the war in Afghanistan. The UK's military operations are funded by our taxes.

Child victims of the war in Afghanistan. The UK’s military operations are funded by our taxes.

Council declines to help clarify ‘tax for terrorism’ claim

Anti-war activist Chris Coverdale wants to query the legality of paying taxes, including council tax, which are used in part to fund military activities – according to a Supreme Court ruling, the government’s military activities may be classifiable as terrorism, and could therefore fall foul of laws outlawing fundraising for terrorist purposes. He has tried, without success, to enlist the help of Hastings Borough Council in clarifying whether paying council tax makes us all potential criminals. Nick Terdre reports.

Fundraising for terrorist purposes is outlawed by the Terrorism Act 2000, which makes it a crime for a person to pay money to another knowing or suspecting it may be used to fund terrorist activities.

A few months ago, Chris Coverdale points out, a couple from Oxford who sent money for an air fare home to their son in Syria who was reported to have joined Isis were sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment for “entering into a funding arrangement for the purposes of terrorism.” So well-intentioned people can find themselves turned into criminals by this act.

According to the act, terrorism is “the use of firearms or explosives endangering life for a political cause.” In 2013 the Supreme Court, in the case of Regina vs Gul which turned on the definition of terrorism, concluded that the definition “…appears to extend to military activity approved by the UK Government.”

“This statement has immense implications for taxpayers,” says Coverdale. “It implies that whenever we pay tax to public authorities, knowing that some of it will be used by the Ministry of Defence for military activities involving the fatal use of firearms or high-explosive weapons, we break the law.”

And the same applies to the authority collecting the tax, in this case Hastings Borough Council.

This is clearly not what Parliament intended, but if this is what the law states, then surely we should obey it while it remains in force, Coverdale argues.

Councillors also in jeopardy

And if his understanding of the legal situation is correct, councillors could find themselves in hot water due to the draconian powers of the Terrorism Act. In 2012 the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, wrote: “The broad definition of terrorism in the Terrorism Act 2000 leaves very considerable discretion to the police…Legitimately elected political figures…in the UK could quite lawfully be arrested under this power.”

When Coverdale contacted the council on this matter, he was told that no monies were paid by the council to central government for the purposes of terrorism. However a Freedom of Information request elicited the information that in the 2018/19 financial year, the council sent £2.74m to HMRC.

According to council leader Peter Chowney, this sum relates to Paye and national insurance contributions on salaries paid to council employees.

Coverdale says the situation is more complicated. All tax, including council tax and business rates, belongs to central government, and when raised is credited to the Treasury’s consolidated fund. From the fund distributions are made to cover both ministry budgets, including that of the Ministry of Defence, and council funding, including salary payments.

In his view, then, the link is established – monies for prosecuting military operations abroad are partly provided by the taxes paid by ordinary people, and raised by the council, activities which would appear to fall under the provisions of the Terrorism Act.

However his requests for the council to take up the matter with HMRC and clarify the legal situation have been turned down or not responded to, and when he wrote to all councillors in July laying out his case and asking for their support in passing a resolution requiring the council to contact HMRC “to establish when it is a criminal offence for a resident or business to pay tax,” no one would take up the matter. He has now sent another letter to councillors (see text below).

“We all need to know when it is a crime to pay tax, and when it is a crime to withhold it,” he says.

Petition refused

In a previous attempt to engage the council, Coverdale presented a petition signed by more than 100 local residents asking the council to clarify the legal situation. The chief legal officer refused to accept the petition and councillors he contacted declined to take up the matter.

For several years he has also been attempting to get clarification from government bodies, including HMRC, on the legal situation, again without success. “At no point has any Government official or lawyer (local or national) ever answered my legal questions,” he says.

“They always give me the normal blurb that it is an offence under the Local Government Finance Acts not to pay council tax or they claim that FoI requests relate to facts held by Government departments and that my questions don’t relate to information held by either a council or HMRC.

“They will always dissemble and never give a straight answer.”

He says it might take the expensive business of a judicial review to achieve his aim. If it came out in his favour, it would mean Parliament had made an almighty blunder in its anti-terrorist legislation, to its extreme embarrassment.

Even if the government immediately moved to amend the law, Coverdale still maintains – as he argues in a previous contribution – that its military operations in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan are in violation of its undertakings in international conventions, such as the General Treaty for the Renunciation of War of 1928 and the UN Declaration on Principles of International Law of 1970 not to interfere in other countries’ affairs.

 

Text of a letter sent by Chris Coverdale to all HBC councillors on 18 November

Councillor,

Notice of Criminal Liability

I’m writing to warn you, your colleagues and council staff that by demanding and collecting council tax and business rates and subsequently transferring £2.7M to HMR&C, knowing that some of this money will be used by HM Government [HMG] for purposes of terrorism or war, you are committing criminal offences contrary to the Terrorism Act 2000 and the International Criminal Court Act 2001.

When I wrote to you on July 29th, I informed you that the law in Britain relating to the collection and transfer of money had changed, and I asked you to contact HMR&C to establish when it is a criminal offence against the law of England Wales for a resident or business to pay taxes.

Other than a helpful suggestion from Maya Evans, and a flat denial from Peter Chowney denying that the money is used for purposes of terrorism, I have received no responses to my e-mail. I therefore assume that you have not contacted HMR&C and have instead decided to ignore my letters and continue to commit these offences believing that you are immune from prosecution.

If this is the case, you are badly mistaken. These criminal laws against funding terrorism and war crimes apply to every UK resident, including Councillors, MPs and even the Monarchi.

When Parliament enacted these laws, MPs made it a criminal offence in Britain for a person to ask for money, collect money or pay that money to another person or institution, if either party has reasonable cause to suspect that some of it may be used for purposes of terrorism or war.

As the Crown Prosecutor in a recent case stated: “People are breaking the law if they give money that could be used for terrorist purposes, even if they don’t sympathise with terrorism.”

That this law applies to councillors, MPs and all UK residents was confirmed by the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation in his report to Parliament in 2012 when he said:

Legitimately elected political figures in the UK could quite lawfully be arrested under this power. More generally the broad scope of the counter terrorism legislation may serve to encourage the police in the belief, and the public in the acceptance, that it can be used against anyone and at any time.

It was reported in the news recently that the International Criminal Court is to investigate allegations of war crimes committed by members of Her Majesty’s military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even if this does not result in war crimes prosecutions in The Hague, the Police and CPS in Britain are obligated in law to prosecute MPs, Councillors and taxpayers for ‘fundraising for purposes of terrorism’, and ‘conduct ancillary to war crimes’. So, I advise you to take my requests seriously.

The claim that none of the money is used for purposes of terrorism is false and incorrect. Please note that all the money paid to Hastings Borough Council (HBC), whatever its source, is owned by HM Government and is credited to its’ Consolidated (Income) Fund. Money from this Fund is then ‘allocated’ to councils and other agents of HMG such as the Police, the Fire Brigade and East Sussex County Council, according to laws and rules decided by HMG and authorised by Parliament.

Once the money allocated to HBC is received, it is then spent on salaries, purchases, outsourced services etc, all of which are subject to tax such as P.A.Y.E., N.I., V.A.T. and other ‘hidden’ taxes. If you check with your accounts department, you will discover that HBC sent £2.74M last year directly to HMR&C which then credited this money to the Government’s Consolidated Fund.

Every year Parliament agrees a budget and authorises the Government to allocate its available funds (income + borrowing) to its Ministries and Departments. In the current year the Ministry of Defence (in reality the Ministry of War) will receive around £50bn of taxpayers’ money to spend on military activities. The MoD then uses some of this money to buy weapons and pay military forces to drop bombs and fire missiles into smaller weaker undefended nation States killing and injuring civilians.

Over the past 18 years UK Government officials have been responsible for initiating, supporting and financing four illegal wars in which we’ve murdered 1.2M adults and 600,000 children, injured many more and driven 12M refugees into exile and destitution. These are the worst atrocities in British history and I want to say here and now that I want nothing to do with it. Under no circumstances will I willingly contribute financially to these heinous massacres and atrocities.

Of every £1000 of money paid to HBC by local residents and businesses, we know and certainly have reasonable cause to suspect, that at least £80 will be used for purposes of terrorism and war killing or injuring thousands of innocent men women and children. So, everyone who collects or pays council tax or any other tax unwittingly commits an offence and is criminally liable for prosecution.

I therefore propose that you contact HMR&C this week on behalf of residents to obtain clarification, before the general election, of the meaning and operation of the offences in the Terrorism Act 2000 and the International Criminal Court Act 2001. Local residents and businesses need to know:

  1. Those occasions in law when the offences in sections 15 – 19 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and section 52 of the International Criminal Court Acts 2001 do NOT apply to the actions of UK tax collectors and taxpayers;
  2. Whether the references to ‘money’ in the offences in sections 15 – 19 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and section 52 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001, exclude money paid to Hastings Borough Council, HMR&C, UK public authorities or businesses collecting VAT;
  3. Whether UK taxpayers and tax collectors can obtain immunity from prosecution for offences under sections 15 – 19 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and section 52 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001 if they continue to collect or pay money [taxes] to UK public authorities knowing that it may be used for purposes of terrorism or war.

Please ask HMR&C, when answering these questions, to provide us with references to whatever authorities and legal grounds they rely on to reach their conclusions.

Yours sincerely

Chris Coverdale

i Section 78 of the International Criminal Court Act 2001.

This article was amended by Nick Terdre on 21 November 2019.

Posted 11:06 Monday, Nov 18, 2019 In: Campaigns

2 Comments

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Keith Piggott

    Chris, a sound fundamental principle doesn’t need buttressing by such lengthy polemics.

    As a child of the 1940s playing in bombed-out London streets, our family and the country already ravaged by the Great War, I was imbubed with both admiration of courage and hatred of war. Yet my turn came with the Cold War, the “4-minute warning”, the Cuba Crisis, and winning my wings.

    As military cadet I learned “War is but an extension of politics, by other means.” Carl von Clausewitz (1780–1831), Yet ‘Defence of the Realm’ is the first order of government. And Einstein wrote, “You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.” He also wrote, “The next world war will be nuclear, but the war after that shall be with sticks and stones”.

    Chris has created a platform for his idealist mantra, I wish him well, but he might not wish to know he only exists because generations preserved his genes, his culture, his language, and his freedom. He must answer, has the price been too high? In good faith, I suggest not. KP

    Comment by Keith Piggott — Monday, Nov 25, 2019 @ 00:51

  2. Philip Cooper

    Chris makes a good case. His line of argument seems valid. More people should engage with this issue, and then the government will have to act

    Comment by Philip Cooper — Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019 @ 20:06

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