JOSEPHINE ROONEY RATES PROTESTOR
Jailed for standing up for decency - 26 JUNE 2006
A 69-year-old devout Christian was behind bars last night after refusing to pay her council tax in protest over her drug-infested street. Frail pensioner Josephine Rooney was led away in handcuffs to begin a three month sentence after claiming her local authority had done nothing to prevent the once picturesque area from being overrun by drug dealers and prostitutes.
Josephine Rooney - seen here at 'syringe alley'
jailed for protest 26 June 2006
Miss Rooney - recently given a Home Office award for her community work - has repeatedly ignored Derby City Council's requests to settle the outstanding £798.97 debt in protest at the state of her neighbourhood.
She told the city's Magistrates' Court she had to take 'drastic action' because the council had failed in its duty to tackle anti-social behaviour and poor housing conditions in Derby's Hartington Street area.
The street has been dubbed 'Crack Alley' and 1,100 used needles were found there in one weekend alone last month.
In a statement handed into court shortly before she was taken to the cells, the ex-wartime evacuee issued a challenge to Tony Blair over the anti-social behaviour blighting Britain.
It said: "Recently, our Prime Minister has been the proponent of respect in the community. I am appealing to him to help achieve it on our street." Miss Rooney was led down to the cells in handcuffs amid boos and catcalls from around 20 supporters who packed the courtroom.
The defiant pensioner has suffered from increasingly high blood-pressure and general poor health since beginning her fight with the council 18 months ago.
But, at a time when the Government seems to be taking every opportunity to stop sending genuine criminals to jail - and once inside, releasing them as early as possible - she will spend the next three months mixing with drug addicts and murderers after being sent to New Hall prison near Wakefield in West Yorkshire.
The jail, which was opened in 1933, holds nearly 400 women prisoners of all categories, including young offenders. Last night, the sentence provoked outrage from the pensioners' supporters. Christine Melsom, founder of the IsItFair? campaign group, said: "I am staggered that Josephine has been jailed when every day scores of real criminals are set free by the courts.
"Josephine is a respectable woman who has battled to improve the condition of her neighbourhood. "It is the council, the Government and the local police who should be in the dock for failing to do the same."
Miss Rooney has refused to pay her council tax since November 2004 in protest over what she sees as the city council's failure to clean up the Derby road she has lived in for 20 years.
In 2002 the street, and others nearby, was given Renewal Area Status with over £600,000 in council and European funding allocated to improve the fabric of the area. But Miss Rooney claims the Labour-run council spent the money on refurbishment grants to attract absentee landlords and unsuitable tenants.
The bespectacled pensioner had been handed the three-month sentence when she appeared at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates Court in Derby last month after she admitted non-payment of council tax.
But it was suspended until yesterday to give Miss Rooney a final chance to pay the bill in unpaid tax and costs. In her statement handed in to the court and media, but not read, she added: "When people are pushed into a corner and their rights are taken away, there comes a time when one has to take drastic action.
"I have always believed we live in a free a democratic country and yet I see current policies set by our local authority that are in conflict with these principles."
She was jailed after a five minute hearing following confirmation that her tax bill remained unpaid. As guards took the pensioner down, district judge Joanne Alderson told the pensioner she would be freed at any stage if the debt was paid in full. There is nothing to stop well-wishers or relatives paying the debt on her behalf.
In September 2005 Exeter pensioner Sylvia Harding was jailed for a week for non-payment, but was released soon after when a mystery well-wisher paid her debt.
But unlike many other offences where prisoners are released on licence at the half-way point of their sentence, there is no remission for non-payment of council tax - meaning the pensioner must serve the full three-month term if the debt is not paid.
Afterwards her brother, Father Liam Rooney, a 66-year-old Catholic priest, said : "My sister is a resolute and principled woman. She was making a stand and I think she was doing the right thing. "If nobody ever stood up to councils in situations like this, nothing would ever get changed."
Neighbour Mary Beadsmoore, 81, said: "It is dreadful it has come to this. It is shocking. Josephine has already vowed to do this again next year if she has to, and I wouldn't put it past her. "She's a very determined lady." So far, at least three other pensioners, including Mrs Harding, have been jailed for non-payment of council tax.
In September last year, retired Vicar Alfred Ridley, 69, was jailed for a month at Towcester Magistrates' Court in Northamptonshire. He branded Miss Rooney's sentence 'a disgrace'. He said: "This woman has done nothing but good in her community. It is terrible that she has been sent to prison. "But I know from experience she will receive nothing but respect from the other prisoners over what she has done."
Derby City Council deputy leader Dave Roberts said afterwards that the council had spent £750,000 on improvements to the street over recent years. He said the pensioner had refused to work with the council. "The council has no wish to send anyone to jail. Miss Rooney had ample opportunity to pay her council tax, but she has steadfastly refused. Her sentence is the court's decision, not ours. "Taking people to court for not paying is a last resort for us, but we do have a legal duty to collect council tax to avoid penalising people who do pay."
26th June 2006
INDEPENDENT COMMENTS FROM 53 DAILY MAIL READERS:
police that took Miss Rooney to the cells are no doubt the same ones who
turned up in force (four of them) when the next door meighbour of a police
sergeant refused to return a football, kicked by one of the sergeant's
children that had smashed his greenhouse, until he had an undertaking from
the sergeant to try to prevent balls being kicked into his garden again.
no longer appear to have any power over what goes on in local areas. We
are entitled to live in a decent environment, perhaps not the right way to
go about it, breaking the law, but if it is the only way to get some
action what choice is there?
hope she is treated with the respect she deserves in prison by both
inmates and warders. Good luck to her, may she only gain from this
experience, she can tell us what life is like in jail and hopefully a
national newspaper will take up her story.
is the council, the police and the Government who should be in the dock
for this. Their failure to clean up the streets leads decent but desperate
people to take such drastic action.
lady did what she did for a justified reason and one that would benefit
all in her community. Prescott evaded paying his council tax. When is he
going to jail?
while our troops fight for the freedom of Iraqis, our own government
imprisons little old ladies. It would be so nice if the government showed
the same concern for its own citizens.
about the human rights of every decent person in Britain to live in peace,
within their own neighbouhoods?
a sick society we live in where Magistrates can put pensioners in prison
for such trivial offences, but let thieves, muggers and rapists off time
after time! I don't know how that magistrate can sleep at night.
about instead of sending the pensioner to jail, the council actually put
their energy into arresting the junkies and prostitutes. But I guess
there's no financial gain in doing that. Funny how the Government tend to
value money more than people!
Dave Roberts confirm that no other citizens have defaulted in paying
Council Tax? Or, perish the thought, could it be true that bully boy
techniques are employed to 'encourage' compliance by the rest of us? The
council has done nothing wrong by upholding the law, other than make
themselves look like the unimaginative, bureaucratic bully boys they are.
The magistrate has complied with guidelines. Everybody is in the right,
except Miss Rooney, who has little other resource with which to make her
case. Great democracy we have, don't you think? I'd advocate everyone in
Derby witholding tax in sympathy and see what that produces.
isn't John Prescott in the same prison or situation as this lady? So much
for British Justice.
more evidence of how the Judiciary and government local or otherwise are
out of touch with reality. This woman should be given a community service
award not a prison sentence. Oh Where have we all gone so wrong!
guess the geniuses in charge of our protection decided it best that
murderers and rapists find prisons with no vacancies.
on crime and tough on the causes of crime Mr Blair? How many of the Poll
tax dodgers have been sent to jail? Mind you they were encouraged by
labour not to pay at the time.
but we all have to pay taxes for things that we do not like. If we all did
what this woman did there would be chaos!
admire this lady for taking a stand. Someone has to. It is a disgrace that
she has been sent to prison for doing something which she believe in,
speaking out about the destruction of our society. This is an example of
decent people being punished while the thugs and criminals walk free.
Nelson says: It is your right to protest peacefully and sometimes actions speak louder than words.
Josephine Rooney will never be forgotten.
Maybe she should seek a judicial review? Where is all her council tax going - is it being used to provide services effectively and can she argue in counterclaim for negligence?
she be put into the same cell as Prescott?
we go again. What possible threat to the community is Miss Rooney? Yobs
roam the streets while a pensioner is banged-up for taking a stand against
an inept council.
sentence is the courts decision not ours". So that is how Dave
Roberts and Co. can sleep at night is it and no doubt judge Joanne
Alderson feels she was only 'following guidelines' to clear her conscience
too. Everyone is free and clear except for the hardened criminal that
needed to be led away in hand cuffs. The English legal system disgusts me.
seems that not paying your council tax has become the most serious of
offences! Heaven help us if OAPs en-mass refuse to pay and force this
government to release hundreds of murderers, rapists, muggers and sex
offenders to free up places to keep them locked up for their full term! At
least then Blair can stand up at PMQ's and honestly claim he is now being
tough on crime!
is it that principled and honest people like Miss Rooney, who only want
the best for their neighbours and community are jailed and yet dishonest
and unprincipled people who have no respect for their neighbours are
allowed to walk free? I don't recall Prescott spending any time in jail
and his bill was larger and outstanding for longer. The Miss Rooney's of
this world should be praised and not Buried
believe the law has to be obeyed for the good of all. In this case the
lady is correct to withhold her payment. Maybe the Council should be in
court for not providing the service for which the lady has paid. The
charge should be obtaining money under false pretences. The so called
democratic system does not work. Councils are a closed shop. Maybe we
should all refuse to pay in support.
City Council are to blame big time!
luck Miss Rooney, all right-thinking people will be behind you. I tried a
similar protest when the Poll Tax came into effect years ago but lost my
nerve when I became pregnant and thought I would not be given proper food
in prison. May God give you strength. Good for you, someone has to take a
time burglars get a caution, the government lets dangerous criminals out
onto the streets and yet an old lady making a stand against a council who
have no idea what affect on her life the problems in the area are having
and who will probably never sort them out is jailed. Perhaps we should all
refuse to pay in protest against such idiotic antics.
about her Human Rights to be allowed to live in a clean and healthy
the people who sympathise with this lady advocate only paying the taxes we
is said that the Judge in this case had no option other than to jail this
lady. Is that really true?
needs a good human rights lawyer.
Blairs Britain. Is it any wonder decent people are leaving, eventually all
that will be left will be the PC do gooders, jobsworth council officials,
football chasing police and of course Criminals. Tony has certainly taken
the Great out of Britain.
up generally law-abiding and decent people and let the crooks go free. Now
we will see whose side politicians are on.
take it that Dave Reynolds would be happy paying for services that he did
not receive because that is what he is expecting others to do.
this your idea on getting tough on crime Mr Blair?
you've gone and done it now Josephine. The junkies and hookers of
Hartington Street will need counceling, compensation, human rights, you
name it for their unfortunate publicised embarrassment.
only way this government will respond is when millions of people refuse to
pay this abominable tax.
in Hartington Street lined their pockets over the years. Grants were given
by the City Council and the landlords got away with bodged work due to
poor inspection by red faced council officials. The result is the council
bleating about the hundreds of thousands lost on the taxpayers behalf.
Miss Rooney has campaigned for many years and Councillors have ignored
her. The architecture of this tree lined road rivals many London
townhouses. If cleaned up along with the Arboretum St this would be a
showcase for Derby and provide many housing units. Well done Miss Rooney
for making this a National issue. This Round goes to injustice and a bone
idle council. This fight must continue.
for her and what she has done. If that was me I would not want to pay my
council tax either. Those sorts of communities make house prices plummet
and when you have worked hard all your life to invest in something you
don't want it going to the dogs.
agree with previous comments - why hasn't Prescott been prosecuted?
about time we all stood up against the council tax.
to this lady for having the courage to speak out about the ever
deteriorating standards within this once proud country.
another example of an easy target whilst the true criminals and yobs get
off scot free. Why didn't some human rights lawyer step in and claim her
rights had been infringed!
was that champion of human rights, Cherie Blair, when Miss Rooney needed
one should ever be sent to prison who is not a violent offender, or
physical threat to other people. Do we not have baliffs anymore?
first thought was: I'll pay, just let her go home. But then I realized,
that she is far bigger than this. What a strong minded woman. If only
Britain had more people like her that would dare to stand up for what is
right it would not take long to put things back to normal again.
should we let this woman off for breaking the law? Should she have
immunity because she's 69 and not in perfect health?
Bridgend - I think you're wrong - if you all had the same bottle as this
lady and followed her example then something would finally get done.
do realise there are a minority of people who purposefully avoid paying
their dues to society. But this lady is not one of those people. Woe
betide you not to pay your taxes, AND in the name of morals! I'm suprised
she's not been locked in the tower by now. Where's Robin Hood when we need
a pity and shame! This old lady pensioner has got all my sympathy.
to John of Bridgend Wales comments, there's already chaos that's why Miss
Rooney is doing what she deems necessary.
City Council should be ashamed of what it has done to this good woman.
This country has more law than Justice.
judge was the one to sentence her, you can't blame Maggie Thatcher either
broke the law. Simple as that.
we all stopped paying our council taxes perhaps the Government might
listen to the concerns of the general public. They couldn't jail us all!
69, jailed for council tax protest over 'Crack Alley'
** res judicata — A rule of civil law that once a matter has been litigated and final judgment has been rendered by the trial court, the matter cannot be relitigated by the parties in the same court, or any other trial court. A court will use res judicata to deny reconsideration of a matter. Cf. res integra.
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