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The Peace Tax Seven

Wiltshire Gazette & Herald
Thursday October 16 2003
Toy designer refuses to pay tax in opposition to Iraq war
Court orders peace protester to pay up

By Lewis Cowen
PEACE protester Robin Brookes had staunch support for his stand against the war on Iraq when he appeared before magistrates in Chippenham on Monday, charged with not paying his income tax.

Brookes, 49, a toy designer from Market Lavington, withheld his £500 income tax liability because of his anger at the Government dragging the country to war in lraq in March.

He wrote to the inspector of taxes in Chippenham in March detailing the reasons why he was prepared to face legal action and the seizing of his property by bailiffs rather than submit to what he saw as the disregard of the wishes of the British people.
MAKING A STAND: Supporters rally around peace protester Robin Brookes outside court (11204/1/AS)
Brookes is a Quaker and about 30 members of the Society of Friends in Wiltshire and other well-wishers turned up to give him support on Monday. They packed the back of the court as he stood in the dock to answer the charge of not paying his income tax. Philip Robbins, prosecuting on behalf of the Inland Revenue, said Brookes owed just under £550, which with interest and fines is now £578.27.
In his own defence, Brookes told the bench he admitted owing the money and asked if he could make a short statement. He said that the British Government had flouted international law and described the war on Iraq as a criminal act of the worst kind.

He said: "I have a right to conscientiously object and I am doing so by withholding all of my taxes because I cannot tell how much of it is being used for military purposes. I have retained the money in a holding account and can pay it at any time."

Presiding magistrate Michael Leighfield told him that he was able to express his opinion through the ballot box and gave him three months to pay up in full.

Outside the court, Brookes said he as not sure what his next step was. He said: "I wanted my day in court and I've had that so I shall play it by ear as to what I do next."

Earlier he had read out a statement as to why he was taking this action. He said: "I find it absurd that in this new century our Government continues to respond to conflict in the world with bombing. It has been well proven that war does not achieve its proposed aims, costs mpre civilian lives than military, leaves poverty and continued danger in its wake. Our recent wars in Kosovo and Iraq have left thousands of civilians dead, their societies in ruins and a continued threat from unexploded ordinance.

"I want to make it clear, I am not against paying tax. I am in full agreement with the principle of paying a proportion of my income for the good of our society as a whole. "Consequently, I have the money put aside and I will voluntarily pay it when I see a real and convincing change in our Government's approach to world problems."

He was surrounded by' supporters who held banners reading Taxes For Peace Building, not Warmongering and Justice Not War, and news photographs of the war in Iraq with the motto Not In My Name, Not With My Taxes.

Joe Jenkins, from the charity Conscience, which campaigns for the peaceful use of taxpayers' money, was there to lend his support. Mr Jenkins, who lives in Hereford, has also withheld his income tax and is waiting to hear how his case turns out. He said: "I am not a Quaker but I have a lot of respect for their religion. I salute their stand against war tax. Ten per cent of our taxes are spent on the military ."

Another supporter who turned up on Monday was Alan Green, a longstanding member of the Devizes Quaker community. He said he remembered signing the Peace Pledge in 1937 in the run-up to the Second World War.

Quakers have a long record in withholding taxes for conscientious reasons. They were regularly beaten and imprisoned for non-payment of tithes in the 17th century.