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Driver evokes ancient law in fines hearing as he faces jail over refusal to pay fine

By This is Devon  |  Posted: March 21, 2011

POLICE were called to Torquay Magistrates Court after a defendant evoked an ancient law dating back to 1666 after being charged with non-payment of fines.

Max Cann, 53, listed as being from Wellesley Road, Torquay was arrested for non-payment of £690 after he was convicted by magistrates of using a motor vehicle without insurance on Feb 5 2010. He was fined £520, ordered to pay court costs of £150 and the £15 vicitm surcharge.

But Cann said he denied being 'found guilty of anything'.

Trouble started at the Union Street court house on Saturday morning when supporters of Cann refused to rise when asked to do so by the Clerk of Court.

As the magistrates retired, the public gallery was cleared and the family and friends were not allowed back into court because they had not risen to their feet when asked to do so for chairman of the bench Stan Squires.

Then shortly afterwards police officers arrived at the court.

Eventually Cann, representing himself, was called on to appear from the custody cells.

However, he refused to enter the dock or take the witness stand, and would only agree to enter the court.

Standing in the doorway of the custody area of the court, flanked by personnel from the security company which handles defendants' court procedures, he said to the magistrates and court staff: "Are you all under oath?

"I am not refusing anything. I am wishing to hear, for and on the record, are you under oath sir?"

Chairman of the bench Mr Squires, after listening to some minutes of Cann's questioning, retired the bench and Cann was taken back to the cells.

He was offered the services of duty solicitor John Smethurst, but also refused those.

When he came back into court Cann said he was an agent for Max Cann under the Cestui Que Vie Act 1666, and did not confirm where he lived or his date of birth, adding: "If you do not tell me you are under oath, I will take it you are impersonating magistrates."

He also said his address given in court belonged to 'the general records office'.

He said: "I do not personally own anything."

Cann also asked whether this was a 'de facto' court and explained he was arrested as he was reporting 'treason in this land'.

The clerk of court then explained that because he would not take an oath, was not prepared to use the duty solicitor, the court could not find his financial circumstances and he was not making an offer to pay the debt he owes the court, magistrates could find he was 'wilfully refusing' to pay the fines — an offence that carries a 28-day prison sentence.

Cann was asked again whether he would offer a payment rate, but he simply said 'no'.

Mr Squires, said: "We are finding willful refusal to pay, and are committing him to prison, suspended on payment of £5 per week. If he doesn't pay then he will be arrested and it is likely that warrant will be activated."

During the entire proceedings, police as well as court security were present in the lobby and stood outside the entrance to Court One where proceedings took place.

Two police cars were outside the court, as well as four officers.

Sgt Andy Joyner, from Torquay Police Station said after the hearing: "We were here to assist in enforcing the Magistrates Court Act, and to facilitate the court business still going ahead. We were here to prevent any possible breach of the peace and to allow the court to continue with its business of the day."

No arrests were made.

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