Snow

Snow

max temp: 5°C

min temp: 0°C

Search

High Court appeal saves jail term

PUBLISHED: 14:39 18 August 2001 | UPDATED: 10:26 03 March 2010

CHRISTIAN crusader Francis Gilbert is still free today after narrowly avoiding jail by making a last-minute appeal to the High Court.

But he defiantly told magistrates, who said the possibility of a prison sentence would remain hanging over him, he would still not pay a penny of the fines and costs imposed on him for having an illegal noticeboard in his garden.

CHRISTIAN crusader Francis Gilbert is still free today after narrowly avoiding jail by making a last-minute appeal to the High Court.

But he defiantly told magistrates, who said the possibility of a prison sentence would remain hanging over him, he would still not pay a penny of the fines and costs imposed on him for having an illegal noticeboard in his garden.

Gilbert, 73, of Foxgrove Gardens, Felixstowe, was appearing before South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court for wilfully refusing to pay the money he owes, which has put him in breach of a suspended seven-day jail sentence.

The magistrates agreed to take no further action until the outcome of his third appeal to the High Court for a judicial review on Human Rights issues is known – and that could be several months away.

The suspended sentence remains in force and at that time the bench will sit again to decide on the matter. Gilbert could still avoid prison by paying £5 a week.

But he told the bench: "It is a matter of principle.

"I would be a fool and a liar if I was to pay anything – that 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. They also said it would be a "dreadful outcome" if he was jailed.

In a submission to yesterday's hearing, Gilbert said: "Prison should be reserved for those who have committed offences against the public, and/or a danger to society.

"For the magistrates to give me, an innocent person, a suspended prison sentence is a violation of the Human Rights to which the UK is a signatory.

"When you consider that I simply seek to help the public – and no member of the it has objected to the manner in which I did do – you have a ridiculous decision."

He asked for the case to be re-opened as "the only safe and sane option" for the bench, and for his conviction to be reviewed and quashed.

Gilbert, who was accompanied 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.

Most Read

Latest from the Ipswich Star

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists