Boughton, R (on the application of) v Her Majesty's Treasury, Court of Appeal - Administrative Court, July 25, 2005, [2005] EWHC 1914 (Admin)

Resolution Date:July 25, 2005
Issuing Organization:Administrative Court
Actores:Boughton, R (on the application of) v Her Majesty's Treasury

SMITH BERNAL WORDWAVECO/1698/2005 Neutral Citation Number: [2005] EWHC 1914 (Admin)IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT Royal Courts of Justice StrandLondon WC2 Monday, 25th July 2005 B E F O R E:MR JUSTICE COLLINS - - - - - - -THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF BOUGHTON(CLAIMANT)-v- HER MAJESTY'S TREASURY(DEFENDANT) - - - - - - -Computer-Aided Transcript of the Stenograph Notes of Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited190 Fleet Street London EC4A 2AGTel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7831 8838(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court) - - - - - - -MR M FORDHAM (instructed by Public Interest Lawyers) appeared on behalf of the CLAIMANTMR J CROW (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) appeared on behalf of the DEFENDANT - - - - - - -J U D G M E N T 1. MR JUSTICE COLLINS: This application for judicial review is brought by a body of claimants who are a group known as the "Peace Tax Seven". They describe themselves in this way: "We are a group of seven tax-paying citizens. We want to make a positive contribution to society by paying our tax in full. We object in conscience to paying others to kill on our behalf. The current tax policy forces us to do just that. We have each tried to direct our income taxes to the use of peaceful, non-military purposes. In each case we were denied the right and each of us have faced a dilemma: either to pay our taxes and so become complicit in killing, or to follow our conscience and break the law by withholding payment of a portion of our taxes. Following our consciences has led us to court or the threat of prosecution. We object in conscience to this financial conscription, and believe that its legal basis is questionable. We are seeking a judicial review of current UK tax policy on this issue."2. What is suggested is that the Treasury should set up a fund into which those who have a conscientious objection, such as the claimants have, could require that the proportion of their taxes which otherwise would go to military purposes be put into a special account so that it would only be used for non-military purposes. It is said that there is power under the taxing statutes for the Treasury to set up such a division, as it were, of the amount that is paid by way of taxation. That is, of course, not the way that the system operates at the moment. All tax which is paid is paid into the Consolidated Fund, and out of that fund come all monies which are used by the Government for whatever purpose. Of course, a proportion (Mr Fordham informs me at the moment about 10 per cent) of general taxation is provided for defence purposes.3. I should say that Mr Fordham recognises that there may be a need to draw a line, because some of those concerned in this case are what I could describe as absolute pacifists. That is to say, they would object to any part of what they pay being used for any hostile purpose, any military purpose at all; including, for example, the use of British troops to assist in United Nations peace-keeping activities. Some would accept that there are circumstances in which force could properly be used; very limited circumstances. Nonetheless, they recognise that there is a line which can be drawn. 4. It is plain that there will be problems, if Mr Fordham's case succeeds, in deciding how a line should be drawn. One has also to bear in mind that there may be objections to other sorts of payments out of general taxation on equally sincere conscientious grounds. Nonetheless, that is not a matter which would prevent this claim going ahead if, in principle, there were the need to establish some sort of an arrangement which would properly cater for the conscientious requirements of those such as the claimants.5. I should say straight away that the genuineness and sincerity of their beliefs is not in issue. The contrary has never been suggested by the defendants, nor is it a matter which is in issue before me. The claimants have each put in statements which set out the reasons why they have come to the conclusions that they have in relation to the use of the tax that they pay for military purposes. I do not think that it is necessary to go into them in any further detail. They accept that they are required to pay tax and they have no desire in any way to avoid the payment of all that is due from them by way of taxation. But, it is contrary to their beliefs and their consciences to pay any money which they know would go towards military purposes. Therefore, there must be some means whereby that sort of objection can be met. They say that there is such a way available by a scheme such as I have mentioned.6. The claim is based upon Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 9 has essentially two effective parts to it. It establishes not only the freedom of religion, thought and conscience but also the freedom of their manifestation. It is in these terms: "(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice or observance. (2) Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others." 7. The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is not in issue. There is no interference with that right in the requirement to pay tax, or indeed in the payments that are made out of those taxes. The question that arises is whether it contravenes and interferes with the right and freedom to manifest the belief in practice (I am isolating the relevant words of Article 9(1)). In the case of many of the claimants, their pacifist beliefs are part of religious beliefs. But that link is not necessary to attract the protection of Article 9. Arrowsmith v United Kingdom [1978] EHRR 218 decided that pacifism as a philosophy is a belief within the scope of Article 9(1) and is therefore protected by the right to freedom of thought and conscience. Indeed, that was given the stamp of approval by the House of Lords in the recent case of R v Secretary of State for Education and Employment and Others ex parte Williamson, decided on 24th February of this year under the title [2005] UKHL 15.8. Mr Crow on behalf of the defendants accepts that there is an argument which, in the absence of any authority from Strasbourg, could be applied to suggest that in circumstances such as this, the objection to payment of the amount of tax for military purposes could be regarded as a manifestation of the belief and therefore would be capable of being protected by Article 9(1). I should say that the argument before me has not touched on Article 9(2). It is the case for the defendants that the claim does not get through the gate, as it were, of...

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