Earith great-grandfather faces jail over council tax row
A great-grandfather who claims to have been the victim of nearly 250 crimes since a traveller camp opened next to his home is facing jail for withholding council tax for nine years. Bruce Charter, 62, of Earith claims his life was ruined when the counci
A great-grandfather who claims to have been the victim of nearly 250 crimes since a traveller camp opened next to his home is facing jail for withholding council tax for nine years.
Bruce Charter, 62, of Earith claims his life was ruined when the council opened a traveller's site next to his �500,000 home in 1997 without telling him.
Since then he says he has recorded 249 offences. In protest Mr Charter stopped paying his council tax in 2000 and now owes a staggering �9,495 and has received 172 bailiffs letters.
But despite warnings of a jail term he has vowed to stand his ground and says he is willing to ''serve time'' before paying the tax.
He said: ''It's like living in a war zone. 'We don't enjoy our lives - they've been made a misery at best and a living hell at worst.
''Our home is now our prison, so if they want to send me to jail, so be it. But I will never pay. They should buy my house from me.
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''I'm not a law breaker and I'm not fiddling benefit yet they treat me like dirt and ignore my rights.''
Mr Charter and his partner of 28 years Rita Redfern, 64, bought their derelict Victorian property set in two acres by the river Great Ouse at Earith, Cambs in 1982.
They spent �100,000 transforming it into a beautiful five-bed house with a granny annex and outbuildings, including a workshop.
In 1994 East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) bought a neighbouring residential caravan site and turned it into a travellers' site with 16 pitches.
Since then Mr Charter has kept a daily diary and logged 249 crimes ranging from the theft of a �500 Honda generator to 2,000 roof slates.
At one point he says he was burgled three times every week and in a single year, 1999, Cambridgeshire Police were called to his property 119 times.
On December 17 2008 he received a summons for non-payment of council tax. A court date is yet to be set.
ECDC said refusal to pay Council Tax is ''never an effective way of resolving a dispute''. Alex Colyer, Executive Director of Finance at ECDC, said: "The District Council has been in constant contact with Mr Charter and his legal representatives for more than 10 years regarding various issues relating to his non payment of Council Tax and allegations which he has made regarding the Travellers site which backs on to his property.
"A significant effort has been made with the travellers in the area to improve conditions for all concerned and to the best of our knowledge we have not received complaints for any other property which is close to the site in the last three years. Mr Charter may feel he has been singled out but this Council and other agencies have worked incredibly hard to deal with his many allegations only to find little evidence to sustain his claims."
Mr Charter's solicitor Kathy Yates, has been working to find a solution for almost a decade and is outraged at the way the council has treated her client.
Mrs Yates said: ''Bruce is stuck. His life is a misery.
''I'm terrified of him going to jail, but he isn't scared. He tells me his life is already worthless, so he doesn't mind.''
She says ECDC should have informed Mr Charter about the traveller's site.
She said: ''Morally it was their duty to tell Mr Charter in person or put a note through his door. They must've known the site would blight Mr Charter.''