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Fate of crusader hangs in balance

PUBLISHED: 13:22 16 August 2001 | UPDATED: 10:26 03 March 2010

MAGISTRATES will decide tomorrow whether to jail Christian crusader, Francis Gilbert, who is

battling to keep an illegal noticeboard in his garden.

Mr Gilbert, 73, has wilfully refused to pay fines or costs involved with the four-year fight to keep the cabinet-style sign and now faces a crunch court case before magistrates in Ipswich.

MAGISTRATES will decide tomorrow whether to jail Christian crusader, Francis Gilbert, who is

battling to keep an illegal noticeboard in his garden.

Mr Gilbert, 73, has wilfully refused to pay fines or costs involved with the four-year fight to keep the cabinet-style sign and now faces a crunch court case before magistrates in Ipswich.

Because he has ignored the most recent court order against him, he is now in breach of a suspended sentence and could be jailed.

"I have received a formal letter which states that the magistrates will decide whether or not to send me to prison because I have failed to comply with the terms of a

suspended prison sentence given to me on June 22," said Mr Gilbert.

He had been ordered to pay the outstanding fines and costs of £408 for putting up the sign

without permission and breaching planning control at a rate of £5 per week, but said he had paid nothing - and would not.

He had been anticipating the possibility of arrest at any time for the failure to pay but believed the court hearing had now been called instead to satisfy the requirements of Human Rights legislation.

Mr Gilbert uses the noticeboard in the front garden of his home in Foxgrove Gardens, Felixstowe, to display religious, humanitarian and charity posters.

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 has succeeded in having fines imposed reduced by two thirds and wants the case against him re-opened and thrown out.

He is currently appealing to the House of Lords after being refused a judicial review by two High Court judges sitting in the Queen's Bench Division, who decided there was no new evidence to

support a reopening of the case.

He has also indicated that he may take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if

necessary.

The outstanding fines and costs were £430, but have been reduced after Mr Gilbert paid £21 to a bailiff serving a distress warrant.

Mr Gilbert, who is accompanied in his fight by his

wheelchair-bound fellow

campaigner Rose Carter, 82, 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.

Eight months ago district

councillors agreed to seek a

county court injunction to remove the cabinet but have not yet

proceeded because they are

waiting for the outcome of the court hearings into the saga.

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