Mr Justice Dyson quashed the jail term imposed on 20 year old Darryl Meikleham in December 1992 for failing to pay £600 in poll tax owed to Leeds City Council.
Mr Meikleham had served 11 days of his sentence before he was released on bail pending his judicial review application. Had he lost the case he would almost certainly have been sent back to prison to serve out the remainder.
'It is apparent that the primary reason why the magistrates passed a sentence of imprisonment in this case was in order to deter others who it was considered were party to a politically orchestrated campaign not to meet their community charge obligations', the judge said.
He ruled the magistrates had failed to consider alternative courses before jailing Mr Meikleham, whose offer to pay off the arrears at a rate of £4 a week was rejected.
The judge took the unusual step of ordering the magistrates to bear the legal costs of today's hearing.