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I'll go to jail over Christian sign

PUBLISHED: 12:32 21 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:21 03 March 2010

DEFIANT Christian crusader Francis Gilbert is today still waiting to be arrested and thrown in jail, after failing to pay fines relating to an illegal noticeboard in his garden.

DEFIANT Christian crusader Francis Gilbert is today still waiting to be arrested and thrown in jail, after failing to pay fines relating to an illegal noticeboard in his garden.

Mr Gilbert, 73, was told that he would face arrest and seven days' jail if he missed any of the payments to the court.

He has again refused to pay any of the fine – the third time he has missed payment – and today said he was willing to go to prison.

He vowed to keep the sign, which he uses to promote humanitarian causes, religious messages and charity work.

"I have been told to pay at £5 a week by the magistrates and that if I missed one payment, just one, then the suspended sentence would be brought into action," said Mr Gilbert, of Foxgrove Gardens, Felixstowe.

"I am now waiting to be arrested – and that could come at any time, at my house or in the street. I will not pay these fines because I believe still that the case should be re-opened.

"I have not been found guilty but pronounced guilty in my absence when the case was heard and I was ill and could not attend."

Mr Gilbert, who is accompanied in his fight by his wheelchair-bound fellow campaigner Rose Carter, 83, has been battling for four years since Suffolk Coastal councillors refused – against their planning officers' advice – to allow him to have a sign in his garden.

They said it would harm the street scene and create a precedent for people advertising in their gardens.

He had wanted to replace his old sign which has stood for 30 years, with a new larger one.

Ten months after the refusal, he put up a new £1,500 sign and was charged with breaching planning regulations.

So far he has succeeded in having the fine reduced by two-thirds – he still owes £100 and costs of £430 – but wants the case re-opened and thrown out.

He said: "I think if magistrates heard all the information, they would see that no case against me has been proved and they would throw it out."

Mr Gilbert has taken his battle through the magistrates courts, crown court, and High Court twice, to a planning appeal and to the Ombudsman, and says he will go to the European Courts if necessary.

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.

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