A FATHER-OF-ONE has been excused having to pay £1,322 in council tax because he was young when he started dodging payments.
But 21-year-old Scott Farr was ordered to clear the remaining £500 owed to Amber Valley Borough Council or risk going to jail for 14 days.
Magistrates found he was guilty of “culpable neglect” over the debts, which started in April, 2009, and went on until July of last year.
The court was told he had been difficult to trace because he had no settled address, but sometimes stayed with his grandfather in Waingroves.
Martin Hendy, revenue collections manager for the council, said the court issued liability orders against Farr and these had been passed to bailiffs. “They were unable to make contact and there were no effects to discharge the debt,” he told Southern Derbyshire magistrates.
They found he was receiving income support and jobseeker’s allowance and contacted civil servants.
“The only payments we received was £101 from the Benefits Agency. Nothing whatsoever has been paid by Mr Farr directly,” said Mr Hendy.
The debt was £1,722 in council tax but the total reached £1,822 because of costs covering summonses and the use of bailiffs.
A warrant with bail was sent to his grandfather’s home, ordering Farr to attend court on January 30. He did not turn up so JPs issued a warrant for his immediate arrest, but Farr finally attended court voluntarily.
However, Mr Hendy said the council did not realise Farr was only 18 when the debt began to mount. Previous cases suggested young people should not be pursued through the courts for arrears. He suggested reducing the debt to “a manageable sum” and that he should be ordered to clear it at £10 a fortnight because he is unemployed.
Magistrates agreed and imposed a 14-day prison term, suspended while he paid the cash.
Presiding JP Lynne Clay told Farr: “You don’t need to go to prison at all providing you pay £10 a fortnight.
Martin Smith, for Farr, said: “He is of no fixed address, sleeping from settee to settee. He lost sight of the debt.” Farr said: “I have not got a leg to stand on. My benefit got stopped. I’ve nothing to say, really.”