Grandmother in court over tax protest on war

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The Independent Online

A 78-year-old grandmother told a court yesterday that she was prepared to go to prison for refusing to pay her taxes in protest against the Iraq war.

Brenda Broughton, a former English teacher, has been given 28 days by a judge at Oxford County Court to pay £310.96 she has withheld from the Inland Revenue, and £50 costs. Mrs Broughton, from Oxford, said it was unlikely she would be jailed because the Inland Revenue would most likely take the tax, which was due on income from investments, from her bank account.

She said: "I won't pay. I'll never pay, that's my stance. It's very unlikely I will go to jail as it's a civil, not a criminal matter. But others have done in the past, and I would if I have to."

Mrs Broughton, a member of CND for 35 years and a member of peace tax campaigners Conscience, said she estimated the amount of her tax used by the Ministry of Defence.

"I'm a pacifist, but I didn't start life as one, but as you learn more about the world you realise we have to learn to get on with other people.

"When I was younger, the MoD used to be known as the War Office, and it's a much more truthful description. George Orwell talked about Newspeak, changing the names of things we are uncomfortable with. This is not about defence, it's about invading other countries.

"I am a Christian. But how can we talk about 'loving thy neighbour' one minute while plotting to kill him the next?"

Deputy district Judge Robin Mitchell said Mrs Boughton had no legal argument for non-payment. The Inland Revenue said although she had a right to her views, she could not control what her taxes paid towards, and imprisonment could be used as a last resort.

Tax receipts are held in a "common exchequer pool" and no part can be identified as a proportion of expenditure, according to the Inland Revenue. Under this system it is impossible for taxpayers towithhold funds. This is entirely compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, the Inland Revenue said.

A CND spokesman said the organisation supported Mrs Broughton. "The fact that this has gone to court and gained publicity shows that the end justifies the means," he said.