Mr Denson, who served 6 days in prison before being released on bail pending his application to the High Court, had his jail sentence quashed. The judge said that under Community Charge regulations, magistrates' courts were obliged to consider whether Poll Tax default resulted from 'wilfull refusal or culpable neglect.
'It appears from the affidavit which I have before me that that course was not adopted', he added. 'In those circumstances I have no doubt that it is right to quash the order of committment (to prison) which was made by the magistrates, and I so do.'
Mr Denson's counsel, Mr Ian Wise, said his client appeared before Wolverhampton justices after the town's borough council obtained a liability order against him for non-payment of Poll Tax for the year 1990/91. At the October 7 hearing Mr Denson offered to pay off the arrears at a rate of pnds sterling 10-per-week, or to have deductions made from his Income Support, the court heard.
It was that decision Mr Denson, of (1) Glenmore Close, Bradmore, Wolverhampton, challenged today. Mr Wise claimed the magistrates' decision was 'unreasonable and irrational'. He claimed they had ignored guidelines that prison should only be used against Poll Tax defaulters as a weapon of last resort.
Overturning the prison sentence, Mr Justice Schiemann said he had thought of snding Mr Denson's case back for reconsideration by the magistrates. But he concluded: 'I don't find it easy but on balance, bearing in mind that this man has served six days, I think it would be wrong to send the matter back to the magistrates.'