Hi all, and a happy New Year to you.
I’m feeling a bit lost at the moment and looking for ideas about possible directions to take and so I thought I’d tell you my story so far, if you’ll indulge me. I’ll try to keep it brief!
I was born in 1966 and spent the next forty one years believing in the system whilst simultaneously hating it. I knew there was something wrong but not what was wrong and, like most everyone else, believed that all could be fixed if only the right people got voted in. I have always had a big mouth, even back then when I had nothing coherent to say, and in 2000 I lost my job. This threw me into a deep depression and turned me into a virtual recluse in my council flat. Then, in 2007, I began the painful and ongoing process most people refer to as “waking up” but which I prefer to think of as changing perspective. Whatever, I began to learn about all kinds of things and play host to thoughts previously alien to me. It was a scary time and I’m sure many of you can relate. It was like finding out that your parents are really your owners – or at least regard themselves as such – and that your home is really your open-prison cell.
In about 2010, as my knowledge increased, I began pushing back. I started with the tv licence: when the annual bill came I wrote back promising to pay every penny I’d contracted to pay and would send payment within a week of receiving a copy of the contract I had signed with them. As far as I was concerned, if there was no contract in existence then I was more than happy to negotiate one – things, after all, must be “paid for.” I was not refusing to pay because, as I understood it, to refuse to pay a bill is to acknowledge that the bill exists. By asking to see the contract, a perfectly reasonable business or administrative request, I put the onus on them to prove their bill is valid and lawful. They could not do this and, although they threatened court action and all sorts of stuff, all that happened was that I got another very similar letter every six months, which I responded to with a very similar response of my own. An inspector called, despite my revoking their implied right to access in writing, but all that happened was that I politely denied him entry and refused to rise to his accusatory and threatening tactics. Calm, I have found, is a powerful weapon. Shouting, swearing and insulting plays into their hands. Anyway, he went away and the last letter I got from them simply said they’d be writing to “that address” in 12 months with another bill. I wrote back withholding my consent for their plans and never heard another word (although you will see why soon enough). This project taught me two important lessons: First, I have power. Second, there is no such thing as winning, all one can do (at least at this early stage) is to force a stalemate. They demand payment, I promise to pay everything I’m contracted to pay. Then the process simply repeats every few months or so.
Buoyed by my success, I tried to negotiate a better deal with my ISP from the standpoint of them being a service provider and not a service seller. The argument, or rather the ISP’s failure to even engage with it, ended several months later with my ‘phone going dead. Well, win some, lose some. On the up side, it meant “officials” couldn’t ‘phone me up any more being pests, although I did miss saying to “official” callers, “I’m sorry but this is a private ‘phone line for use by friends, family and in emergencies only. Please do not call this number again and, if you wish to contact me, please do so in writing only. Thank you and goodbye.” Then put the ‘phone down, heart pounding, waiting to see if they’d call right back, which they almost never did.
My proposed negotiations with the utilities companies went better. I paid a professional electrician to replace the electric card meter in my flat with a brand new, factory-fresh, British Standard basic electricity meter. I did this only after long (attempted) negotiations with the electricity company, and informed them what I was doing a good month in advance – at first requesting one of their own electricians perform the task. Then, every month, I sent them the readings off my meter, suggested a payment amount and reminded them that they could come and pick up their meter at any time. They never sent anyone and simply kept sending me estimated bills, which I promised to pay on production of a contract. Another stalemate. I couldn’t do the same thing with the gas meter as I couldn’t find a gas fitter willing to do the work, seeming to think it would be illegal despite my informing the gas provider and their acceptance through silence. Negotiations with the water provider went almost straight to debt collection agencies. It took me seven letters to get rid of the first debt collector but their last letter to me was beautiful – they basically told me they weren’t going to pay the bills I was sending them and that I should bugger off and leave them alone. A little later I got another bill from the water provider and, again, requested a copy of our contract. Another debt collector wrote to me and I saw them off, too. Another demand from the water provider followed by another request from me and then yet another debt collector. In the end, I was seeing off debt collectors with just three letters.
I’ll explain my debt collector process because it might be a bit different from what’s suggested here. The First Letter from the debt collector comes and is fairly polite but stern. I take a red Sharpie and write diagonally across it: I DO NOT HAVE A CONTRACT WITH YOU. I DO NOT WANT A CONTRACT WITH YOU. PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT ME ON THIS ISSUE AGAIN. THANK YOU. I then take a copy for myself and send the letter back to them*. The second letter from the debt collection company comes and it’s a lot longer, full of graphs and percentages and legalese and threats and punishments. I take up my red Sharpie and write across every page of it: I DO NOT HAVE A CONTRACT WITH YOU. I DO NOT WANT A CONTRACT WITH YOU. IF YOU CONTACT ME ON THIS ISSUE AGAIN, MY FEE IS £25 FOR EVERY LETTER YOU EXPECT ME TO DEAL WITH. The third letter tended to be a copy of the first and, again, I’d write on it: I DO NOT HAVE A CONTRACT WITH YOU. I DO NOT WANT A CONTRACT WITH YOU. A BILL FOR MY SERVICES IS INCLUDED, AS AGREED. I’d then post it back to them with a bill for twenty five quid – and each bill plainly stated that if it was not paid within 28 days a penalty of £25 per week per unpaid bill would be imposed. After this, I never heard from that particular company again (and if I do hear from them in the future, think of all those £25 per week penalties adding up – penalties they were informed of but ignored, thereby accepting their existence, which is [i]exactly[/i] the scam they pull on us). I don’t expect any of these bills to be paid but I make sure I announce any charges well before I make them and take their silence and/or ignorance as acceptance – I think it gives them just enough pause to stay away from the courts. The courts may be bent but with a solid argument more establishment than the establishment’s, you never know.
I also think it’s important to keep things as simple as possible and so I never, or very, very rarely, quote legislation. It’s good to know bits of it but it’s their arena, their weapon, so if you’re not too smart – like me – it’s best to leave it alone. To me, Natural Human Law is the foundation of all law and it’s really simple, “cause loss, harm or damage to nobody, honour your lawful contracts, pay your lawful bills and be honest in your dealings.” Those are the words I strive to live by and the encapsulation of the laws I hold highest over myself and anyone I deal with. Legislation is law written by human beings and applies only with the consent of the governed. If I’m one of the governed then I don’t consent to be bound by legislation and if I’m not one of the governed it doesn’t apply to me anyway. In any case, my attitude to legislation is that it can be useful in an advisory sense but is a poor commander.
So much for keeping it short! Sorry.
Anyway, in about 2012 or 2013, two things hit me. The first was that, in taking control, or attempting to take control, my depression was fading away. I noticed that unexpected callers no longer filled me with dread but sparked a wave of excitement. Was the system grinding me into depression? It seemed so and even my doctor thought this was a valid argument. For the first time in years I forced myself out to work part-time. I was still half-in the system, drawing incapacity benefit, and tried to do it right by telling them what I was up to but, predictably, all it did was throw up problems. The second thing was a book, [i]”The Most Dangerous Superstition,”[/i] by Larken Rose. It explained a big chunk of what’s wrong with the world and changed my view forever – and caused me deep moral problems.
In essence, taxes are stolen money. If, therefore, I continued to claim benefits then I’d be accepting stolen money and condoning the state’s agents running around seizing people’s possessions or even locking them up. I would like to be able to claim that I stopped drawing benefits as soon as I realised this but I can’t. I was afraid of trying to live without money – addicted to the state’s tit. The situation, however, came to a head when I grappled with Atos. I was still recovering from my depression and it still dragged me down on a regular basis but I felt I was slowly improving. Atos confused this with being cured and ordered me to an assessment in Liverpool. I instead invited them to send a qualified professional to my home and gave them a list of dates and times when I’d be available. They quibbled a bit but I stood firm and eventually a lady turned up with a tape recorder. I set my laptop up to record as she set her tapes up. She asked me what I was doing and I told her I’d be recording this meeting as well. We had the usual argument, very polite, and in the end she just packed up and went away. This, Atos said, was me refusing to be examined and cut my benefits off. It was a shock, I won’t lie, and that’s the closest I’ve yet come to throwing my arms in the air and giving up, running back to the state and jumping through its hoops. But you can’t unsee what you’ve seen. I took the opportunity to turn my back on the violent nature of the state. I have no government. I have no monarch. I have no slaves. I am a King with only one subject – myself – and that Kingdom is plenty big enough for me.
The council, at the time stymied on the council charge front by my continued requests to see or negotiate a contract, soon noticed that the Housing Benefit payments to them had stopped. I explained why I could no longer accept HB, or any benefits, on moral grounds, and begged we negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement. The council took “mutually acceptable” to mean they like it and I lump it. They simply ignored or summarily dismissed every suggestion I made, including an offer to pay my rent through my labour, sweeping the streets of my village or picking up litter from the public areas. They simply demanded the same thing over and over again. In the end I offered to pay a percentage of my part-time earnings and if they wanted to claim stolen government money to make up the difference then that would be their lookout. (They’re the ones screaming for stolen government money, so why not cry to it instead of me?) They ignored this suggestion, and so I ignored what they were saying and kept offering different percentages. Each offer was ignored and so I made an executive decision to pay 1% of my earnings in rent as a show of good faith until a more mutually acceptable percentage could be arrived at. I scrupulously paid this 1%, even back-dating it to the time the HB was stopped. Of course, after about three months of this they invalidated my rent payment card so I couldn’t even pay this paltry amount. Some time before this I had begun the process of billing the council for dealing with threatening or otherwise deliberately distressing letters (I forget my exact wording), which bills they of course ignored. However, I then scrupulously knocked off the 1% rent payments from their bill. Technically, I never stopped paying the rent and I never tried to avoid paying. If I had been in a privately rented flat then my strategy would have been inappropriate but, for social housing, I feel I did right. I understand and accept that rent must be paid but I will not be fleeced and will not tolerate other people being fleeced in my name.
The council then sent me an invitation to an administrative hearing, to be held at the court buildings in Liverpool. Stressing my historical and continued desire to negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement with the council, I declined the invitation, in writing, to both the council and the court, making it clear that I did not consent to be bound by any decisions taken in my absence. Of course, they went ahead without me. In January or February of 2014, the Council Guy and a brace of bailiffs turned up. I did not open the door and talked to them, politely, through the letterbox. They claimed to have a warrant for my eviction. I asked to examine it but was refused. I asked for a copy but was not given one. I asked if the alleged warrant was signed and was told that no, it was not signed and did not need to be. I explained that I was not going to accept an unsigned, unseen document inviting me to participate in a life of homelessness and misery – heck, I wouldn’t even accept an unsigned cheque. After about an hour of Pythonesque letterbox-debating, they went away. A few more letters were exchanged, theirs threats and mine offers to negotiate and a warning that if they did manage to succeed in causing my unlawful eviction I would be charging them £1,000 for every day I remain homeless – which they accepted by ignoring. (Don’t they always tell us not to ignore our bills?)
Then, in May 2014 they returned with exactly the same alleged warrant as last time, still unsigned, still not available for me to examine. There was [i]nothing different[/i] about their demands or reasons. This time, however, when I refused to open the door about half a dozen police officers began trying to break it down. I called 999 to report an ongoing break-in and managed to keep the broken door closed by pushing my back into it and bracing my legs against the alcove wall. The police could not break past me and then, after a pause, I heard the bedroom window shatter and I knew all was lost. The police pushed me to the floor, and I resisted only by being physically awkward, but soon there were four of them on me and I was handcuffed and hauled out of my home of the previous 27 years in front of my neighbours.
I was charged with “breach of the peace,” dumped in the back of a police van and carted off to the cop shop. Nearly fifty years old and never been in trouble with the police before and now I’m handcuffed in the back of a van for refusing to open my door.
I am quite proud of how I acted in the police station – I kept calm and polite but remained firm. It sounds daft but I tried to behave like one of those calm upper-class Lords in the old black and white films who will only go along with this kind of thing so far. When the arresting officer booked me in, things started to go off-track. The desk sergeant entered the arresting officer’s details into her computer and I refused to confirm or deny my identity, or anything else, so they got the info from other sources (my wallet, the officer’s notebook). Then she got to the input field asking for the charge and the arresting officer said, “breach of the peace.”
She stopped typing, I remember that vividly, watching her previously busy fingers hovering inert over the keyboard. “In his own flat?” She turned to look at him. “On his own? How?”
They looked at each other for a long moment and then the officer pulled a small bag of cannabis leaf from his pocket. “Oh, and we found this on him,” he said.
I jumped on this immediately. “Excuse me, but [i]where[/i] did you find that?”
“Ahm,” he said, looking down, “a Community Officer found it in his flat.” He handed it to her.
“Is this yours?” She held the small bag up for me to see.
“Well,” I said, and I still can hardly believe I had the presence of mind to say it, “I don’t know who found that or where it came from. However, even if it was found in my flat it’s fruit of the poisoned tree as your officers had no warrant to enter and no reason to conduct a search,” or something like that – in reality there were probably a shed-load of ums and ahs and stutterings. The desk sergeant and the arresting officer then invited me to wait in an unlocked cell while they went off for a conflab.
A few minutes later they came back and arrested me for possession of cannabis – the breach of the peace angle entirely forgotten. I was asked to sign a document agreeing to be charged with this crime but refused and was locked up. At around 11pm a young officer took me from the cell to an interview room. He was a pleasant enough young fellow who tried to put me at my ease with chat. As he fiddled with the double tape recorder he complained about having to use such outdated equipment when modern systems are so much better. I explained that old magnetic audio tapes are used because they’re much harder to tamper with than digital recordings.
He raised his eyebrows and smiled at me. “Oh yeah,” he said, “that makes sense. I like talking to people who know what they’re on about.”
I couldn’t help smiling. “You’ll not do, in a minute,” I said.
He nodded and clicked his pen. “Name?”
“I neither confirm nor deny my identity.”
He looked up sharply. I smiled. He scowled. “It’s usual,” he said coldly, “to just say ‘no comment.'”
I thanked him and answered “no comment” to every subsequent question. He soon gave up and led me out of the interview room back to the custody desk, where a new sergeant with astonishingly bloodshot eyes lurked. He asked the young officer how he’d got on and he answered, with a sour grimace, “no-blanking-comment.” the desk sergeant then invited me to sign a document agreeing to be charged with possession of cannabis. I declined and he informed me that if I didn’t sign I’d have to go back to the cell.
“Your house, your rules,” I said, and started walking back to the cells myself. There was no point arguing or going mad – I sensed that kind of thing would play into their hands. Also, it was the middle of the night, the last bus back to my village had gone and I’d nowhere else to sleep anyway.
The next morning, a civilian custody officer entered my cell and told me I was to go with her to have my photograph, fingerprints and DNA taken. “No thank you,” I said with a smile.
She scowled and said she wasn’t asking but telling. “Me too,” I said. She left and came back some time later with the arresting officer from the previous day, who told me to go with him. I declined his invitation, not being a criminal I have no obligation to give anybody anything, especially such personal things, and so he got four other officers to help him carry me out of the cell to the fingerprinting room. I acted like an amiable corpse and refused to help or hinder them.
When asked to face at the camera I turned anywhere but; and when an officer grabbed my head and forced it towards the camera (assault, surely?) I pulled faces and screwed my eyes shut until they gave up. I refused to place my hand on the fingerprinting machine and so one officer held me down, one forced my arm up and a third bashed and pulled at my fist until he unfolded it and pressed my palm hard against the scanner – by simply wiggling my fingers, though, I defeated the machine’s ability to take a clear picture – so they eventually gave up on this as well. Throughout all this I forced myself to remain calm, even cheerful, smiling and engaging in mild banter. When one of the officers pointed to the cctv cameras and told me I was going to look a right tool in court I shrugged and said, “maybe, but on the plus-side I might get a couple of hundred quid out of [i]You’ve Been Framed![/i] for it.”
Then came the time for my DNA to be collected. I refused. The officers hauled me to my feet. One held my head, the original arresting officer held my left arm, one held my right arm and I think there was another around my waist. I could not move. The civilian custody officer told me she was going to get a swab of DNA from my mouth and so I clamped it tight shut, after saying that if she sticks anything into my body without my permission, that’s tantamount to rape. She seemed to think this observation was funny and jabbed a small, plastic swab at my mouth. It did a very little damage, a tiny cut, but it was my lip and it hurt. I jerked my head in pain and said, “ow!”
The next thing I knew, the arresting officer from the previous day shouted, “Assault! Take him down!” Then I’m pinned on my back on the floor and the civilian officer’s back with another swab. I bite the end off and spit it onto the floor, somehow conscious to make sure I didn’t, accidentally or otherwise, spit it at any of my attackers. I was then taken back to my cell for a few hours before being taken to the Magistrates’ Court, charged with assaulting a police officer (of breach of the peace and possession of cannabis there was no mention of the former and only a fleeting and dismissive reference to the latter), ordered to appear at a later date, released without bail and then spat out onto the street with no home to go back to and only the clothes I was wearing. I reckon that was my lowest point but friends helped and I found places to crash.
I attended the Magistrates’ Court and, more fool me, put my faith in the public solicitor, who was at first indifferent, then quite excited, then indifferent again. The police called two witnesses, the arresting officer (who has by now arrested me for three different crimes in under 24 hours) and the civilian custody officer who scratched my lip with her plastic DNA swab. The arresting officer testified to being in full control of my left arm during the entirety of the alleged assault and also said that he did not actually witness any assault – even though he arrested me for it! The civilian custody officer testified that I punched her. Twice. With my LEFT FIST. The Court Bailiff seemed to be the only one to pick up on this, even my solicitor seemed nonplussed, and took several minutes to make sure the CCO actually meant my left fist. She stuck to her story. At this point I felt a huge weight lifted from me. This was perjury at worst and benefit of the doubt at best. With the cctv footage from the police station and this, I was surely exonerated.
The cctv footage from the police station had been lost due to a “corrupt hard drive” and the three magistrates found me guilty of some technical form of assault on the CCO. That was a proper [i]Jaws[/i] moment for me, you know that bit where the camera zooms in on Chief Brodie while simultaneously pulling away. Like the world’s bending out of shape around you. It made no sense.
I went to a proper solicitor soon after, one advertising a no win-no fee set up and specialising in actions against the police. After all this time, after agreeing to take on the case, very little has happened except my being sent a load of Legal Aid forms I don’t really want to fill in. I feel my solicitor’s heart is not in it, somehow, even though I feel I have such a strong case for unlawful arrest, assault, kidnapping, perjury, abuse of power, slander and perverting the course of justice.
I’m currently paying rent to live in a garden shed, which has its advantages (quiet, as close to off the grid as I can get without moving into a ditch), but is not ideal, and waiting for my solicitor to either do something or give up. I get the horrible feeling he wants to give up. Would I even have a chance anyway, under such a bent system? I like to think that if I can get this in front of a jury I’ve a good chance of clearing my name and maybe even striking a small blow for freedom. It’s not just about me, it’s about sending a message that the police are not there to act as stormtroopers for the council’s housing department. The way I understand it, the only reason for police to be present at an eviction is to protect the evictors from the evictees and to protect the evictees from the evictors, not to go smashing doors and windows in to drag people off and charge them later when they’ve thought of something to charge them with.
I send the council a bill for £1,000 per day, as I promised I would, every month. After writing to the magistrates’ court requesting a review of the poor service they have provided me (as one would with any business entity promising specific services) and receiving the usual non-responsive responsive, I’m sending them a bill every month for bearing an erroneously applied criminal record. The council “owes” me a shade over a million quid at the moment and the magistrates’ court a good few grand (those non-payment charges really mount up!). These bills will, of course, never get paid but it seems important to keep sending them – like a little extra pressure on them every month, another water-torture drip. And if I can win my case against the police, suddenly those bills and the paper trails behind them might become valuable bargaining chips. Then again, they may just be a sign of madness.
So, after all that long and boring waffle, that’s where I am – nowhere – and I’m wondering what the Hell to do next. Any suggestions?
*One of the things I used to do to wind them up was to post letters without stamps. On the front, where the stamp should be, I would write, “postage may be paid by addressee,” and on the back flap (to stop the Post Office opening it and sending it back) I’d write, “Private. To be opened by addressee only. Penalty for non-compliance, £10,000.” These companies are the ones trying to make money out of me so I’m going to make it as expensive and awkward as I can for them – an unstamped envelope only costs them pennies, but imagine 100 people doing that, or 1,000, all in the same week. Turn their systems against one another.