Christian still faces jail threat

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 November 2001 | UPDATED: 15:19 03 March 2010

CHRISTIAN crusader Francis Gilbert still has the possibility of jail hanging over his head – despite a fresh appeal to the High Court over his illegal noticeboard.

CHRISTIAN crusader Francis Gilbert still has the possibility of jail hanging over his head – despite a fresh appeal to the High Court over his illegal noticeboard.

He is waiting for a date for leave to seek a judicial review over his battle to keep the sign in his front garden.

Gilbert, 73, of Foxgrove Gardens, Felixstowe, was summoned to appeared before South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court to explain the progress he was making with the High Court application.

He told the bench he had written to the court and was now waiting for a date. The magistrates said he should return again on November 16 with proof that the London courts were accepting his application.

There would be no need to attend if he could provide beforehand details of the case number and its status.

Meanwhile, the possibility of a seven-day prison sentence for wilful refusal to pay fines and costs imposed for having the noticeboard would remain.

Gilbert was angry that the court summons sent to him implied that his breach of a suspended sentence for non-payment was to be dealt with by the bench.

He had arrived at court to discover this was not the situation and said the inaccurate summons had caused him anxiety and a great deal of unnecessary work in putting together his case of the defence.

He has made his appeal to the High Court for a judicial review on Human Rights issues. The magistrates have agreed to take no further action until the outcome of the appeal, his third, is known.

They have told him to pay at £5 a week but he refuses. He says to pay would be "tantamount to admitting I was not innocent. I am innocent."

Two previous applications for a judicial review have been refused, although the judges expressed sympathy with his case and felt he had been treated harshly. He has repeatedly asked for his case to be reopened as "the only safe and sane option" for the bench, and for his conviction to be reviewed and quashed.

Gilbert, accompanied in his fight by his wheelchair-bound fellow campaigner Rose Carter, 82, uses the cabinet-style noticeboard in his front garden to display religious, humanitarian and charity posters. He owes £408 in fines and costs.

He has so far taken his battle with Suffolk Coastal council through the magistrates' courts, crown court, and High Court twice, to a planning appeal and to the Ombudsman.

He had had a notice in his garden for more than 30 years but applied for permission for a new one because it was falling to bits.

Councillors refused the new sign, against officers' advice, because it would harm the streetscene and create a precedent for people advertising in their gardens. He then went ahead and put up the £1,500 cabinet in his garden anyway.

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