Court Cases: UK: Tony Croft
European Commission of Human Rights
APPLICATION /REQUÊTE N° 10358/83
C. v/ the UNITED KINGDOM
of 15 Decembre 1983 on the admissibility of the application
DÉCISION du 15 décembre 1983 sur la recevabilité de la requête
Article 9 of the Convention: This provision primarily protects the sphere of private, personal beliefs, and not every act in the public sphere which is dictated by such convictions. It does not authorises the right to refuse to abide by legislation (tax law), the operation of which is provided for by the Convention, and which applies neutrally and generally in terms of freedom of conscience.
Article 13 of the Convention: This provision does not guarantee a remedy against legislation, as such, in order, for example, to have one's taxes allocated for a particular purpose.
Article 9 de la Convention: Cette disposition protege en premier lieu ce qui relève du for intérieur et pas nécessairement tout componement public dicté par une conviction. Elle n'autorise pas à se soustraire à une législation générale neutre sur le plan de la conscience et, qui plus est, prévue par la Convention (loi fiscale).
Article 13 de la Convention: Cette disposition ne garantit pas un recours contre la législation comme telle, par exemple pour obtenir une affectation particulière du produit de l'impôt que l'on paie.
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The facts as they have been submitted on behalf of the applicant by Miss F. J. Hampson of the University of Essex may be summarised as follows:
The applicant is a British citizen resident in Oxfordshire and a technical writer by profession, born in 1939. He is employed by a publishing house, and further permitted to undertake assignments as a free-lance journalist.
The income tax on his salary is deducted at source by his employer, and the tax due on his free lance work, after deduction of expenses, is payable direct to the Inland Revenue. The applicant's assessment for the tax owing for the financial year 1981/82 amounts to £90, which he is willing to pay, but only on receipt of a guarantee that it will not be spent on purposes which are an outrage to his conscience and religious and philosophical beliefs. He therefore accepts both that tax is owing, and the amount that is due to the Inland Revenue.
The applicant is a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) a central tenet of whose belief is pacifism. He is not prepared to pay that proportion of his taxes which is used to finance armaments weapons' research and allied industries as these purposes are inconsistent with his beliefs. The Peace Campaign has calculated that a sum equivalent to forty per cent of the Revenue raised by direct income tax in 1980/81 was spent on armaments, weapons' research and allied industries and the applicant having paid substantially more than 60 per cent of the income tax due from him in the year 1980/81, wishes to divert the whole of the sum still owing on his free lance earnings to peaceful purposes.
The applicant indicated his philosophical convictions to the Inland Revenue and informed them that he was not prepared to pay the sum in question without guarantees as to its destination. The Inland Revenue applied to Oxford County Court for payment of the sum due, and the applicant entered a defence relying upon his freedom of thought, conscience and religion guaranteed by Article 9 of the Convention. The applicant appeared in person before the Registrar of Oxford County Court sitting in Chambers on 22 November 1982, when his defence was rejected but the Registrar refused to award costs to the Inland Revenue, recognising that the defence was not vexatious or an abuse of the processes of the Court. The applicant applied to have the order of the Registrar set aside, which request was refused by the County Court on 6 December 1982. The applicant then sought leave to appeal against that order on 7 January 1983 which was refused. The applicant sought leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal, his application being dismissed on 18 February 1983.
The Inland Revenue has indicated to the applicant that it intends to seek enforcement of the judgment debt and the applicant therefore has to choose between paying a sum which will be used for further purposes which he opposes as a matter of belief and conscience, or having a judgment debt enforced against him. He contends that no procedure exists whereby he can effectively evoke the right to manifest his pacifist beliefs by directing a proportion of his tax to increase the resources available for peaceful purposes. He invokes Articles 9 and 13 of the Convention.
The applicant complains that the absence of any procedure whereby he may effectively invoke the right to manifest his pacifist beliefs by directing a proportion of the tax due from him to peaceful purposes represents a breach of Articles 9 and 13 of the Convention. He contends that the final decision is either the debt upon which he received notice of the final demand based on the assessment following the preliminary hearing in Oxford County Court on 22 November 1982, or the date of the final refusal of leave to appeal by the Court of Appeal on 18 February 1983. He also points out that he has exhausted the available remedies under domestic law, a view confirmed by the decision in Cheney V. Conn (1968 I ALL ER 779) that English Courts cannot take account of the United Kingdom's international obligations when admissible legislation is clear an unambiguous.
The applicant also contends that he may be considered “a victim” within the meaning of Article 25 (1) of the Convention, since he is not complaining of domestic law in abstracto, but of the fact that a final demand for payment of income tax has been made, and that he is now liable to enforcement of the judgment debt as soon as the Inland Revenue seek a warrant to do so, and notwithstanding the fact that this step has not yet been taken.
The applicant contends that pacifism comes within the scope and ambit of Article 9 of the Convention as a philosophical belief, as was recognised in Application Number 7050/75 (Arrowsmith v. the United Kingdom, D.R. 19 p. 5 at page 19). The manifestation in practice of pacifism requires that an adherent should oppose recourse to force in the settlement of disputes and therefore should not support, directly or indirectly, weapon procurement, weapon development and other defence related expenditure. Where forty per cent of the monies raised by taxation are used for such purposes, it is a necessary part of the manifestation of a pacifist's belief in practice and observance that forty per cent of his or her taxes be diverted to different, peaceful purposes. The present case is thus to be distinguished from Application Number 5442/72 (DR. 1 page 41) and the Arrowsmith case referred to above, especially because the diversion of forty per cent of the applicant's taxes to peaceful purposes is not merely consistent with her beliefs, but necessary for the manifestation of them in practice and observance.
The applicant contends furthermore that his submissions are distinguishable from the conscientious objector cases (eg 7565/76, D.R. 9 page 117 and 7705/76 D.R. 9 page 196) since those cases relate to a factual situation where there is a requirement of some form of service, recognised by Article 4 (3) (b) of the Convention. Thus Article 9 has to be read subject to Article 4 (3) (b) where the fulfilment of such an obligation is at issue. But it has nevertheless been recognised in the conscientious objector cases that, where a form of civilian service may be performed, the duties thereof should not interfere with the practice of any religious belief (Application Number 5591/72, Collection 43 page 161). Hence Article 4 (3) (b) constitutes a limited exception to Article 9, which only applies to a requirement of military or civilian service and not to the manifestation of beliefs, including pacifist beliefs.
Under the terms of the present law, and in particular the Public Accounts Charges Act 1881, Section 1(2). Inland Revenue receipts are paid into a single account. The applicant merely requires that a separate account, “earmarked” for peaceful purposes is established, and submits that such a change in the law as this would require is necessary in order to enable him to pay his taxes without thereby acting in a fashion inconsistent with the manifestation of his pacifist beliefs.
The applicant further contends that no justification can be found in Article 9 (2) of the Convention for the interference with his freedom of conscience about which he complains. Although he recognises that the interference under Article 9 (I) of the Convention is “prescribed by law” within the meaning of Article 9 (2), he contends that the only conceivable justifications which could be invoked are either the interests of public safety, the protection of public order, or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
As far as an argument may be made with reference to public safety, the applicant stresses that he is willing to pay the full amount of tax due and that his case is distinguishable from that of other groups who for non--religious or non-philosophical reasons may oppose certain categories of public spending. Pacifists would appear to be the only group who can bring their beliefs within the scope of Article 9 and claim that the manifestation of those beliefs entails opposition to all as opposed to certain elements of military expenditure and thus the diversion of forty per cent of their tax to peaceful purposes. Nor is his position to be compared with that of someone who objects to a particular level of military spending, or spending on a particular military project. In these circumstances, given the narrow basis of his objection, it cannot be argued that a massive precedent would be set by recognising the legitimacy of the applicant's objection. The same arguments apply, mutatis mutandis, to a justification based upon the protection of public safety.
Similarly the applicant contends that no justification can be mounted on the basis of the protection of the rights and freedoms of others, since the Government would then have to establish their defence expenditure unequivocally and undeniably did protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens. Levels of military expenditure are however a question of political choice, and no “minimum” level of military expenditure can be established as necessary in order to protect a given population. In this respect the present case is distinguishable from Application Number 2988/66, (10 YB page 472), concerning the requirement for compulsory car insurance, where the amount of premiums were related directly to the compensation of victims of motor accidents, a correlation which does not exist in relation to military spending. Furthermore a Government could either take the view that no military spending, or large military spending, would protect its citizens and could not therefore justify imposing its choice in this respect on the proponents of the opposite argument. Finally even assuming that defence expenditure is for the protection of citizens, the Government must establish that it is necessary in a democratic society to raise funds for this expenditure from all citizens. The applicant contends that it is not necessary or proportionate to the aim of the protection of citizens from war by means of military expenditure to require pacifists to help finance something which they disapprove of on account of their philosophical convictions.
Thus it is the necessity of the limitation on the right of pacifists to manifest their philosophical beliefs in observance and practice which must be justified under the terms of the Convention, and not the need for defence expenditure. No choice therefore arises between two conflicting “pressing social needs”, namely defence expenditure and non-interference with the right of pacifists to manifest their beliefs in observance and practice. The applicant asks only that a proportion of his taxes which would go towards military expenditure should be diverted to peaceful purposes. In this respect the applicant recalls that the Government allows pacifists not to fight when the state is actually under an immediate threat by permitting conscientious objection, and that it cannot therefore justify forcing pacifists to pay for military expenditure in peace time, since they are thereby being obliged to pay for something which they are not going to be obliged to do since it violates their conscience. Finally it would be possible to earmark tax raised for specific purposes, as is already done in the case of national insurance contributions.
With respect to the application of Article 13 of the Convention the applicant contends that he has had no opportunity for his claim that his rights under Article 9 of the Convention have been violated, in as far as the United Kingdom makes no provision for the diversion of forty per cent of the taxes of pacifists to peaceful purposes, to be considered by a national authority capable of giving an effective remedy.
The applicant invokes Article 9 of the Convention in relation to his complaint that he should not be obliged to pay a portion of his taxes without an assurance that they will not be applied for military or related expenditure. Article 9 provides:
I. 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 and 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 of morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The applicant, who is a Quaker, contends that to compel him to contribute to expenditure for armaments, rather than for peaceful purposes, is an outrage to his conscience and contrary to the requirements of the manifestation of his belief through practice. He contends that the manifestation in practice of his Quaker beliefs requires him to oppose recourse to force in the settlement of disputes and not to support directly or indirectly weapon procurement, weapon development and other defence related expenditure. It is therefore his contention that it is a necessary part of the manifestation of his Quaker belief in practice and observance that forty per cent of his income tax be diverted to different, peaceful purposes. This step is not merely consistent with the Quaker beliefs, but necessary to their manifestation.
Article 9 primarily protects the sphere of personal beliefs and religious creeds, i.e. the area which is sometimes called the forum internum. In addition, it protects acts which are intimately linked to these attitudes, such as acts of worship or devotion which are aspects of the practice of a religion or belief in a generally recognised form.
However, in protecting this personal sphere, Article 9 of the Convention does not always guarantee the right to behave in the public sphere in a way which is dictated by such a belief:- for instance by refusing to pay certain taxes because part of the revenue so raised may be applied for military expenditure. The Commission has so held in Application Number 7050/75 (Arrowsmith v. the United Kingdom, Comm. Report, paragraph ii, DR. 19 page 5), where it stated that “ the term ‘practice’ as employed in Art. 9(1) does not cover each act which is motivated or influenced by a religion or a belief.”
The obligation to pay taxes is a general one which has no specific conscientious implications in itself. Its neutrality in this sense is also illustrated by the fact that no tax payer can influence or determine the purpose for which his or her contributions are applied, once they are collected. Furthermore, the power of taxation is expressly recognised by the Convention system and is ascribed to the State by Article I, First Protocol.
It follows that Article 9 does not confer on the applicant the right to refuse, on the basis of his convictions, to abide by legislation, the operation of which is provided for by the Convention, and which applies neutrally and generally in the public sphere, without impinging on the freedoms guaranteed by Article 9.
If the applicant considers the obligation to contribute through taxation to arms procurement an outrage to his conscience he may advertise his attitude and thereby try to obtain support for it through the democratic process.
The Commission concludes that there has been no interference with the applicant's rights guaranteed by Article 9 (1) of the Convention and it follows that this aspect of the applicant's complaint is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 27 (2) of the Convention.
The applicant has also complained that he has been denied the opportunity to voice his objection to his payment of taxes without an assurance as to their ultimate destination and invokes Article 13 of the Convention which provides:
Everyone whose rights and freedoms as set forth in this Convention are violated shall have an effective remedy before a national authority notwithstanding that the violation has been committed by persons acting in an official capacity.
However, the Commission notes that the right to specify the purpose for which money raised by taxation is to be spent is not expressly guaranteed by the Convention, and cannot, in the light of the Commission's finding in respect of the applicant's complaint under Article 9 of the Convention above, be implied from its terms.
In as far as the applicant complains of the operation of laws to secure the payment of taxes, the liability to which he does not dispute, the Commission recalls the terms of the final paragraph of Article I First Protocol, which provides a wide discretion to Member States in the enforcement of precisely such measures. The applicant complains that the legislation in the United Kingdom does not provide for him to make conscientious objection to the allocation of revenue arising from his taxation to specific purposes, but the Commission recalls that, in accordance with its established case law, Article 13 of the Convention does not guarantee the right to challenge or review legislation for its conformity with the Convention, but merely ensures a machinery whereby individuals may attempt to vindicate their claims of violations of the Convention (judgment of the Court of 25 November 1980 in the case of Young James and Webster, Series A Vol. 44).
In the present case the applicant is not prevented from holding the view that the legislation relating to collection of taxation should be amended to permit his conscientious views in relation to the application of those funds to be taken into account. In these circumstances the Commission concludes that the applicant has not established the absence of a remedy for a complaint concerning a right guaranteed by the Convention as envisaged by Article 13 of the Convention, and it follows that this aspect of the application is manifestly ill-founded within the meaning of Article 27 (2) of the Convention.
For these reasons the Commission
DECLARES THE APPLICATION INADMISSIBLE.