Do you agree with the jail sentence given to the pensioner refusing to pay her council tax?
The council tax protestor Sylvia Hardy, 73, has been released two days into her seven-day jail sentence after a mystery donor paid her £53.71 council tax arrears.
Ms Hardy was jailed for refusing to pay her council tax, claiming that her pension could not keep up with the rises in tax.
Was it right to jail Ms Hardy for not paying her council tax? Is she justified in her protest? What do you think about her early release?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
I would support this woman's views. UK State pensions have fallen behind, and has caused hardship for many people. It is not reasonable, or just, to eat into pensioner's meagre income with impunity whilst hiding behind the law of the land. The tax is unfair, it has to be changed!
Mike Cooper, Darmstadt, Germany
If Mrs Hardy is as poor as she claims, she is entitled to Council Tax benefit. On a basic state pension, and with moderate savings (around £6,000), my Mother-in-law gets abut 80% of her council tax paid. Mrs Hardy must have either substantial savings or additional private pension, or just be too stubborn to claim the benefit to which she is entitled.
Keith L, Chelmsford, UK
I think the summing up by the judge says it all really. You can't simply decide to negotiate what you are prepared to pay after the event and expect no comeback. Besides pensioners today have never been so well off. Pensioners retiring in the next 10 years onwards will have it far tougher. I also didn't like this lady's attitude to the mystery benefactor. It makes her appear to be stubborn and small-minded.
J Malakarki, Preston, England
Don't agree. Ms Hardy logic is totally correct regarding inflation issues. Why can't the powers at be see this?
Alastair Weir, Nottingham. England
I feel Ms Hardy is fully justified in her protest. I am only 26 and find it hard to cope with the increases every year, and dread the prospect of trying to cope on a pension. I would love to do likewise and refuse to pay the excessive increases, but being only young and of no importance I guess I would be sent to jail unnoticed, or have the bailiffs at the door. Good luck Ms Hardy, you're fighting the good fight, and even if you don't win you're giving them a run for the money!
Andy, Leicestershire UK
Between this 73-year-old and my 82-year-old friend Walter ejected from the Labour conference we are certainly tackling the true threats to our society!
A well-meaning gesture for the payment of the fine, but a misguided one. The lady wanted to protest as was her right but the action itself cancelled her protest! She was correct in her crusade as no citizen today should have to contribute an amount they clearly can't afford.
I wholeheartedly support Sylvia's right to protest, but if she wishes to exercise those rights she must accept the consequences.
Mark Young, Holmfirth
Why is it that just because of her age she expects to pay less than the rest of us? Old people have the cheek to say that youngsters today have no respect - where was Ms Hardy's respect for all the law abiding citizens who pay council tax every month? She got sent to prison at our expense. Ms Hardy is said to be have £270 a week as an OAP - there are families out there who earn less than that and are still paying full council tax. We all think it is high but we don't all decide not to pay it. What example are we setting our children? That if you feel strongly it's OK to break the law to prove your point?
This is the legacy of a third term Labour government. Pensioners sent to prison for not paying all their council tax whilst teenage yobs getting away with a 'slap on the wrist' for far more serious offences.
CB, Stevenage, UK
The emotionalisation of this issue is disgusting. She knowingly broke the law so she deserved to go to prison.
James, Southend, UK
The majority of people seem to support her. How are we going to get these laws changed for the better if we don't make a stand like Sylvia has. Well done Sylvia, hope you continue to refuse to pay and i hope more people follow suit.
It is a national disgrace that the fourth wealthiest country in the world sees fit to inflict an iniquitous tax system on the low paid and elderly, and then jail those just over the threshold for benefits.
Morag Butcher, Colyton - Devon
It was wrong to jail Ms Hardy, she was no danger to the public or herself, and a jail sentence was wholly inappropriate. There's no excuse for council tax to rise above the rate of pension increase, and this should be urgently looked at and Ms Hardy thanked for highlighting this injustice.
Jon Perrin, Lincoln, UK
In my industry, quality improves and costs fall. In public services, quality gets worse and costs rise. We have got to stop pouring taxpayers money into unproductive public services.
Ian Crompton, Derby
I applaud Ms Hardy and all her followers standing up to councils who keep putting up council tax year after year with no thought to anyone being able to pay. I am not an OAP but I feel as though the OAP's are fighting for all of us who live in this country and feel we are just pound signs to the government. We are overtaxed and I am delighted the OAP's have the guts I don't have to withhold payment.
Carol, Leamington Spa
The way we treat our youngsters, elders, and poorly ones really defines the quality of our society. Thousands get away with serious offences (drunk driving, pub brawls, burglaries) by paying fines less than £100. And we jail this 73 years old lady because she cannot pay her tax.
Mustafa Yorumcu, UK/Turkey
Sylvia's stand is commendable on the one hand, bringing attention to the issue. It is however counterproductive in that the tax payer (and she is one of them) is picking up the bill for her court appearances. So she may think she is clever avoiding one bill, but she is notching up costs on everyone's tax bill. I pay lots of tax already, so thanks Sylvia for increasing that bill further.
G Duncan, Leicester, UK
I hope the council stop collecting Sylvia Hardy's rubbish. Why should she receive a service she doesn't pay for?
She has proved her point, the law is an ass, muggers go free and those who owe small sums of money go to jail. Take a bow Sylvia, I would like Tony Blair's comments on this.
Poppy, Northern Ireland
The council taxes are high. I personally wouldn't mind if I thought I received anything like value for money. But I don't. To me, it's like going into M&S and handing over £94 and coming out with pair of socks. Not a good deal.
I overpaid my council tax for a property I moved out of 3 months ago. I'm still waiting for the £95 refund 3-months later - perhaps I should be threatening the council with legal action? Pensioners should be means tested and given a rebate, also only house owners should have to pay the tax, why should people who rent property have to face the bill as well?
Michael Bourse, Sussex
There's nothing new about this. I worked in a prison 20 years ago and people were regularly jailed for not paying their rates at the time. There's very little discretion involved either - each case simply follows its course with the non-payer being given numerous chances to comply and finally ending with a fixed term for failing to pay - the magistrates may have had no option but to jail her nor any choice in the length of term. It's also worth bearing in mind that this would be treated as a civil matter, and as such, unlike criminal fines, had the amount not been paid, Ms Hardy would have completed her term and still owed the money, though she couldn't be imprisoned again for that particular debt.
Peter, Telford, UK
Let's not forget Ms Hardy is getting a works pension, there are some people who don't get as much money as she does, and struggle to pay bills. So she should count herself lucky. Yes she should go to jail.
Yvonne, Liverpool UK
Difficult one here. I think it was right that she was punished for breaking the law of the land, i.e., failure to pay a tax which all homeowners have to pay (although unfair on anybody living on their own on the low income). But, also, why is she so ungrateful that her debt has been paid and she is now free several days early? Surely, it doesn't matter about the intentions of the person who paid for her, she's out of prison, and back home.
Let's not make a martyr out of this old lady. I pay my taxes, even though I may disagree with them at times. Her age is no excuse and I also feel that the paltry sentence she was handed down was far too lenient.
John Berry, Edinburgh
If the action of one brave woman brought at least publicity and attention to an issue that citizens are all in agreement with (that councils charge excessively), then the next step would be collective action.
I'm not going to waste time talking about the fairness of the council tax system, or the fact that we in Wales have been re-valued, except to wonder whether the revaluation will be put on hold until the rest of the UK catches up? The basic issue appears to be that the council tax rises are a greater percentage than pensions go up by, but this is true of most people's percentage wage/income increase. Why should pensioners be more exempt from increases than the rest of society?
Chris, Monmouthshire, Wales
Most of us complain about the level of taxation in this country, the many hidden taxes and the year-on-year disproportionately high increases in council tax in our 'low-inflation' economy. I applaud Sylvia Hardy for having the courage of her convictions and speaking for the majority of us who just continue to pay up and are scared of the consequences of not bowing down to authority.
Council tax is a very unfair way of paying for our local services. The concept of poll tax is much fairer in my opinion, except it was badly implemented by the government of the day, by being set too high. Could it not be tried again, but this time set it at a sensible rate which I feel sure would have worked the first time round if the government had done their sums properly.
Andy Tapper, Teignmouth, Devon
It was quite wrong for Ms Hardy to actually go to prison! She was obviously being made an example of - which is very wrong bearing in mind that people with far greater debts would never be put in prison. The local council is a monopoly and as such should not be allowed to put up costs faster than the rate of inflation, either that or there should be some control on their excesses! I am pleased that she was released early, but she should never have gone there in the first place. Well done.
Geoff Bailey, Haddenham, Cambs
Has Sylvia Hardy's human rights being abused by the anonymous person paying her council tax arrears? I thought this information was protected by the data protection act.
Mike Wilson, Southport England
The news that a "Mr Brown" has paid Sylvia Hardy's council tax arrears sheds light on who Mr Brown is, but I doubt very much if it is the Chancellor, Gordon Brown. Although as it costs the State more to keep her in prison than her arrears, it may be the case as he is desperate for every penny he can get.
John R Jones, Preston, Lancs
I see she intends to commit the same crime this year. Surely we should be asking why she was released when she clearly intends to re-offend?
Yes, it was right to jail her - she broke the law. It's just a shame all other people who break the law are not always jailed, such as drunk drivers, hooligans, drunken louts, burglars, muggers etc.
Jail gives Sylvia the publicity she has been looking for. Maybe when she has sold her story to the newspapers she'll be able to afford to pay the council tax.
John , Bucks
Why is a pensioner sent to jail for £53 while Rupert Murdoch and Directors of News International , with their tax "avoidance" schemes are still at large? Sheer hypocrisy!
Dave, Liverpool, England
Council tax is ridiculously unfair to the elderly. A fairer system must be thought through and implemented based on the tax system. You earn money and you pay tax on money. In this area a house may have as many as 6 employed tax payers living inside it with 6 cars outside on the street) and paying the same tax as the house next door with a retired elderly person on a small or state pension. Absolute madness and totally unfair. How else can the elderly get the attention of the government other than by actions such as those of Sylvia Hardy?
Rick, Hook, Hants
How much has the court case cost? How much will it cost to keep her in prison for a week? I suspect it will a bit more than £53.71!
Eamonn McGarvey, Braintree, England
The problem is that the whole tax system is complex and unfathomable for the ordinary person to understand. It needs a root and branch simplification. Pensioners on a moderate income should not be paying 20% of their money out of money that has already been taxed on pension funds that have been taxed as well, and don't forget pensioners have paid income tax into the system before some of these magistrates even started "work". It's a national disgrace.
Why does council tax have to increase each year anyway? Why can't councils be run like a business and have to reduce costs rather than increasing them? The way some of the council tax money is spent is ridiculous which is why people resent this tax so much.
Lee Ashmore, Chesterfield, UK
Of course, it was right to jail her. She broke the law. But you have to admire her, because she brought attention to the disgraceful increases in council tax. Unfortunately, her action will not stop the endless upward charges for a diminishing service.
Cyril Ord, Berwick upon Tweed, England
We should all rebel. The increases are to pay for increases in council employees' pensions while your own are being reduced.
Colin Harrison, London, England
Absolutely not - Ms Hardy is right to protest. Council tax takes no account of ability to pay, and that's not fair, especially on pensioners. Abolish it and replace with an income-related tax - or even better, why not close a few of the tax loopholes for big business which cost us billions in lost revenue every year? Why shouldn't they pay their share?
Ben Drake, York, UK
Of course she should be jailed. That's how the law works - you don't pay your taxes, you face a punishment. Every British citizen knows this and if she chooses not to pay her taxes, then she should be arrested like anybody else. There are other ways of making a stand. People should not be praising this woman for standing up for herself as a pensioner or as a female or for whatever else. Why is she being treated as a "martyr" when she was aware of the law? It's ridiculous
Deborah, Belfast, NI
I'm also an OAP that's finding it difficult to meet increases in council tax of over 10% every year when my pension only rises 1.3%. I saved for my retirement but find that I am financing people on benefits that can claim money that puts them on a better standing. I'm unable to claim these benefits because I was silly enough to save a little and if I was means tested would at the moment be just above the basic rate that I could claim. If the government allows councils to add another 10/12% increase in March 2006 I along with thousands of other OAP's will have to swallow our pride and be means tested to be able to survive. All the hassle on pensions at the moment is a waste of time, if I had my time again I would spend all my money. My friends that did this are better of than me and with their benefits can afford things that I can only look at.
Mack, Northampton England
What a sad reflection on today's society that some contributors here choose to denounce Ms Hardy's protest on the basis that they have had to pay, why shouldn't she, rather than stand up and join the protest. Isn't the issue really about whether it is fair to expect a pensioner on a limited income to pay the same amount of tax as someone who may earn far more? The fact that younger people are more likely to have families living with them, and therefore consume more council services per property than a single pensioner, just compounds the unfairness. Ms Hardy paid what she thought was fair, so good on you Sylvia! We should all be proud of Ms Hardys' determination to fight for what she believes in, rather than wallow in our own apathy.
James Carter, Colchester, UK
In response to Nicky from Glasgow, who suggests that pensioners should move if they can't afford the council tax for their property. What you seem to fail to understand is that a great many of these pensioners bought their homes long before property prices shot up. They have found themselves with property worth a substantial amount (what their tax is calculated on) but very little actual income. Is it really fair to ask them to move just because their house is worth more money now?
Even though the law is correct, the feeling is that council tax is increased every year but our pensions are static. So we have to protest to be heard unfortunately.
I hope the British public is sleeping soundly, knowing that a dangerous pensioner has been taken off the streets! It's a pity the law cannot do the same with the louts and yobbos who seem to have free reign of every town in the country. Seriously, I hope some good Samaritan pays the tax bill for her. The case should never have been allowed to get this far. The law is truly an ass!
What about those 22-year-old's like myself who are struggling to make ends meet and coping with student debt. Council tax is just a pensioners' issue, yet I can see them being given lower payments at the expense of the rest of us.
Yes she was justified in not paying her council tax. If I was in her position neither would I. The government are to blame and why? Because it does not want to give them a good state pension that they deserve like other countries give theirs. Instead of giving out our tax payers money to those that don't need it - like single parents barely out of school and asylum seekers, let's see if we for once can look after our own instead of being constantly the laughing stock of the entire world.
Taxes are not optional. They pay for the many services we all take for granted. If you don't like it, move. Find a country where you don't have any of these services, and you won't have to foot the bill.
What this report fails to mention is that Mrs Hardy has already had a suspended sentence, and broke the conditions by still refusing to pay. What exactly were the magistrates supposed to do - let her off without paying? I think the council tax is a flawed system of tax collection, but the law has to be upheld. This focus on a convenient martyr does the debate about local funding no favours at all.
What happened to 'equality' in this debate? What relevance is it that Ms Hardy is a woman, or come to that a pensioner? The only point to discuss is the Council Tax and justification for it.
Barry P, Havant England
OAPs can claim Council Tax Benefit and Pension Credits among others. Why should younger people struggle to pay the bills while OAP's refuse to get help due to outdated notions of pride?
Ms Hardy committed a crime and should be punished. That doesn't mean that she wasn't justified in her protest, or that the law isn't an ass, or that the Council Tax is not unjust, but that the law must be upheld. In fact, her suffering (such as it is) should be the impetus for all of us to work to change the law and adjust our social system.
Mike, London, UK
Some people seem to be under the (incorrect) impression that council tax benefits are related to income. They are not. I was out of work, and still expected to pay the full amount. I was told to use the kids' savings first before applying for benefit.
Ms Hardy should not have been jailed! Is this how were going to treat our elderly? Let's show them some respect. Council taxes are too high and we need to recognise that the elderly are vulnerable. Reasonable limits need to be set to ensure councils stop taking advantage of those of us who do actually pay the council tax.
F. Akhtar, Manchester, UK
Our local council does a great job of 'decorating' our roads with red squares, chicanes, speed bumps, and stupid little roundabouts, but the potholes and dirty (unreadable in some cases) road signs etc. are not fixed. No wonder people like Sylvia don't think that council tax is good value!
Chris, Telford UK
The rate of inflation is around 2.5%, this pensioner's council tax went up 18.5% last year and 6% this year. As her pension only rose in tune with inflation how on earth do they expect her to be able to afford to pay it? Also, was prison the only method in sorting this out?
Steve, Warrington, Cheshire
With our overcrowded prisons, custodial sentences should be restricted to those who are a threat to others and need to be excluded from society. Ms Hardy is certainly not in that category!
Bob Jones, UK
When we protested over poll tax and council tax, we were called yobs and scroungers, then pensioners do it and there made to look like 'martyrs' if the law says you should pay' you should pay no matter how young or old. If you can't afford it there are benefits to help, but if they don't get the benefit that means you have to pay and can afford to pay! Like all the rest of us skint Devon/Cornwall residents!
Mr Mayhew, Newquay, Cornwall
Well done Sylvia. I only wish more people joined her. It looks like councils don't get the message easily. If only thousands joined them in this manner would the council be forced to do something about this.
Sebastian Cruz D'Souza, Milton Keynes
Yes, anyone who refuses to pay tax, particularly those who can afford it, should be suitably punished. This is the rise of "Grey Power" where an increasing number of pensioners attempt to influence the political and taxation systems to their benefit. Giving in to the pensioners will leave a decreasing proportion of working people who have to pay the bills for everyone. The country cannot afford to go down that road. The OAPs use at least as much of the council services as everyone else, and should pay their share. They'd be the first to complain if services were cut.
Barry, Glasgow, UK
I deal extensively with local authorities and the amount of money they waste is frankly staggering. The current system used to allocate budgets positively encourages the wasting of vast sums of money at the end of the financial year. Staffing levels are twice those you would find in a comparably sized private sector organisation, and yet they claim poverty every year in order to justify inflation busting tax hikes. Sylvia Hardy shouldn't be in jail. Council Chief Executives and certain government ministers on the other hand....
Dan, Yateley, UK
The solution is simple, either cap council tax rises to inflation, or link pension rises with council tax rises. Better still scrap this unfair and bloated tax and stop councils wasting so much money.
Phil, Newcastle, UK
We had the Poll Tax and everyone hated that and many refused to pay. We now have the Council Tax and people hate this. Like it or not, taxes have to be paid. There are many many different benefits a pensioner can claim to help supplement their incomes and they do NOT have to live as poorly as some make out. I recently visited family in England and asked a pensioner there about claiming (she was complaining about living on little money) - she replied "Oh I couldn't do that dear" - Erm, why not? Perhaps if pensioners made the effort to claim what they are all entitled to, they would then have the money to pay taxes.
Dee, Sweden (English ex-pat)
What other means does she have of fighting her perceived injustice? Please don't tell me the ballot box - more people in England voted Conservative than Labour - so that doesn't work.
LW, Rochester, UK
In response to the whingers below harping on about the UK population being "overtaxed". Well the answer to all the radicals (how many voted for Labour I wonder) is easy. Emigrate. I live and work in Sweden where the taxes are higher than the UK, petrol is about the same and food is much more expensive. Yet you don't hear many people complaining. Why? Because the taxes they get are visible seen in the improvement of public services. The trains and trams here are better than anything the UK has to offer, the streets are clean and the people are happier. So stop moaning and do something about it.
Colin Wilcox, Manchester & Stockholm
Sadly we all have to pay our council taxes. However, surely there is another way of dealing with the problem. Could she not be made to do voluntary work which would make up for the money she owes the council?
J. Copleston, UK
I am 88 years of age and also object to the way one's ability to pay the council tax is assessed. It is judged on one's capital not on one's income - two very different things. I find the council tax a great drain on my living expenses and have repeatedly complained at how much it is. £117 a month.
Sheila Stubbs, Harrogate, England
Many pensioners live on state pension, which is set by the government. Out of this they have to pay council tax which is regulated by the government. It is up to the government to ensure the pension keeps pace with the increases in council tax, either that or expect pensioners to accept a lower standard of living.
We used to have a system where people with only one income paid a smaller amount, and people with several incomes paid more. It was called Poll Tax. Whatever happened to it?
Alan, Cardiff, Wales, UK
At the end of the day, whether you like it or not, the law is the law and we should all abide by it. I am not happy at the amount of income tax I pay but that surely does not give me the right to unilaterally not to pay it. Would we have the same sympathy for those who refused to pay car tax etc??
A united front is required to bring in a system related to the ability to pay. The whole community is suffering with this inflation busting tax and not just pensioners! Until we all act as one, the government will just divide and rule!!
R. Sharpe, Potters Bar, Herts
Well done Sylvia, It has probably cost the council more money to gaol you than if it had accepted your offer to pay the increase in line with inflation. Hope you enjoy the seven day's stay at the convenience of Her Majesty, and I do hope the council does not come after you for expenses.
Every year we see big rises in our council tax, yet wage increases come nowhere near the percentage increases on the council tax. And still we witness councils spending their "Budgets" in what seems to be the last 3 months of each financial year on things that are questionable whether they are truly required.
Steve, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire
I know we all have to pay council tax but Sylvia is making the point that it is just too much. This country is taxing us to the hilt on just about everything. Good on this lady for making a stand.
Angela, Merseyside, UK
I am in complete support of Ms Hardy. It does not matter that she is a pensioner, we are ALL paying far too much council tax for ever diminishing levels of service. Our police forces are so in-effectual as to render them almost a joke, our councils are so badly run it makes you wonder if a group of chimps wouldn't do a better job and every year it costs us all more and more for these appalling services. Three cheers to Ms Hardy for having the guts to stand up and be counted.
Stephen, Ilkeston, UK
Ms Hardy is well justified in her protest. I also find that the pension cannot keep pace with the rising council taxes. One week's pension per month is going on council tax. Also get it right, this lady has paid the majority of the council tax. Colin Picton.
Colin Picton, Milton Keynes
While I agree that the law is the law, seven nights in jail seems a little excessive for not paying £53.71. I'm fairly certain that her stay will cost a great deal more! When you consider some of the lenient sentences that are handed out for joy riding, burglary etc, this just seems ridiculous.
Jacqui, Vancouver, Canada
Why should she not have to pay her council tax? Isn't it a bit unfair on the people who have struggled but have made the payment? If she is not entitled to a rebate then she should be able to afford to pay the full amount. At the end of the day if the property's council tax is too high for her, she should sell it and move somewhere less expensive. She is not entitled to preferential treatment on account of her being a pensioner.
Unfortunately Ms Hardy has to go to prison. As a country we elected the current administrations at local and national level. We are all facing a major tax burden as a result. The fact that she's a pensioner is irrelevant.
Absolutely disgraceful that a woman of that age should be jailed for such a small sum. It just shows the small mindedness of this country.
Steve, South Wales
We, the younger generation, should support Sylvia in her plight. How are we to afford the council tax at her age when we have no state pensions, reduced if any company payments and little individual pension plans! As others have stated, jail for a women who has worked her whole life and contributed to the country via income tax and the like is utterly disgraceful.
Richard, Gosport, Hampshire
I do hope she is going to pay her accommodation bill while in Prison. Why should I, a law abiding tax payer also pick up the tab of keeping her whilst in jail? The fact is that we have a democratic right to protest, however breaking the law is not and should never be regarded as a valid tool to protest with. This lady has clearly broken the law and as such should pay for her crimes, regardless of her age or frailty.
Graeme MacLeod, Dunstable, UK
I do not agree with sentencing OAPs to a jail term. Community service should be better served and actually do some way of re-paying the debt. I had to pay my mum's council tax this year as she is also an OAP and could no longer afford to pay the whole amount. I think it is a disgraceful set of circumstances when the only income OAPs get in not index linked and the council tax raise is more than the rate of inflation. The gov't is just making the older poorer to feed their own fiscal policies.
Simon Jacklin, Bristol
The local council tax continues to grow over the price of inflation and I'm convinced we're getting less services. I stand and applaud Slyvia, and at the same time am ashamed that we've sentenced someone who's paid her taxes all her working life to see any savings she's had being taken by this tax incensed government.
Craig, Maidstone, Uk
For those who comment that she was right to be sent to jail, I would call gutless. I believe she was right to make a stand and wish I had the determination to stand by my principles. To say the court had no option goes against the fact that the courts are quite often willing to give minor or even non-custodial sentences for crimes such as 'joy' riding, assault and more often than not - crimes against the individual. But in this country money is so much more important than violence against the person. I wish her well and all others who have the guts.
Laurie, Midlands, UK
Whilst it is unfortunate that this woman had to go to prison for such a small amount the whole thing is highlighted in the media more because she is an OAP. It would not be a national story if the resident was a student or single middle aged man. Just because she is older there should be no different treatment in the eyes of the law - otherwise this would be deemed as discrimination against non-OAPs!
Never thought I'd see a day when we start sending our mums and dads to jail. We should be looking after them not punishing them. Shame on us.....
It is a sad fact of recent years that whilst inflation appears low, this hides some large anomalies. Falling costs of non-essential items and a move to imported produce hides the real costs for those on the breadline - the items that have increased significantly are those that can't be cut back on like council tax, fuel, heating, water etc. At the moment the majority of the population don't really notice this subtle shift in their outgoings but those living on tight budgets certainly do. I wholeheartedly support Ms Hardy and suspect that there will be many others like her as the economy shrinks and the inevitable tax increases are applied. The West county suffers from not only high council taxes but among the highest water charges in the country and, being a mostly rural community is also hit by ever increasing fuel costs.
Robin Coomer, Kingskerswell, Devon
It is remarkable that some people believe the law does not apply to them. Are people really saying that a pensioner should not go to jail for something a 20 year old would? Whether council tax if fair or not, there are proper procedures of complaint that can be followed, and where a protest such as this is undertaken then the consequences have to be accepted. Sylvia Hardy at least seems to understand this much(even if she does not seem to accept the laws of the country), it is a shame her supporters do not.
Martin, Sheffield, UK
What is this woman's income? Is she not entitled to Council Tax Benefit? If her income is high enough to not be entitled to the benefit, surely she can pay?
The current system unfairly expects retired persons to pay. Local taxes should be based on household income. I pay a well over £1000 a year but don't earn very much by comparison. Change is long over due - and let's make it fair for all
Jim Kyle, Teddington Middx
I see a lot of people saying that Ms Hardy was in the right. Any of them volunteering to pay the deficit that pensioners not paying council tax will leave in the budget for local amenities and services?
Dominic Weeks, Derby
Sentencing in this country is verging on the ridiculous. Here we have an elderly lady being sent to prison for 7 days; a woman who is no danger to the rest of the community. Yet in other courts in the land young muggers, are being giving Community Service. The legal system in this country fails at every direction. If the crime is financial the sentence is far greater than crimes against the person.
Paul McEnhill, Huddersfield
We should all be ashamed of this sentencing. Not only should this dignified lady not be jailed, but I agree with a previous comment that UK pensioners should not have to pay council tax or water rates come to that.
She is to all intents and purposes a law abiding citizen. Community punishment would have been a much more appropriate 'sentence'. She hasn't hurt anyone and I suspect is giving a lot of people hope, and these days that is a precious thing indeed. Well Done Sylvia and all the best.
BA, Cambridgeshire, UK
I cannot believe that yet another pensioner has been jailed for daring to protest against a very unfair tax. Shame on the Council and shame on this Government. There are plenty of other people in this country who don't contribute anything but all we ever hear is that their civil liberties must be protected. How about protecting our pensioners, most of whom have worked hard all their lives and contributed a lot to our society.
J Rooney, Crawley
I applaud her protest against this horrendously unfair tax, but she knew that she was breaking the law and presumably anticipated a jail sentence. So although she's right to protest, it is also right that she ought be jailed.
Alex, London, UK
My parents are retired and are now paying more in council tax than their mortgage. Jailing pensioners.. what's next? How about jailing the thugs that have burgled and desecrated our house four times with impunity? Sorry, that would be an infringement of their human rights!
I don't think she should have been jailed. I don't even think pensioners should pay council tax. We should look after our pensioners as after all they contributed all their lives. Gone are they days, I think, where we used to respect our elders.
Glenn, Essex, UK
No she shouldn't have been jailed. There are plenty of people on our streets who are criminals, but Sylvia Hardy is not a criminal - she is a protester. Don't blame the court, which was simply applying the law in the only way it could see how. Blame the government. Clearly the council tax increases represent yet another hardship for the elderly. Instead of jailing them, the government has a responsibility to address the problem and try to help them. A "democratically" elected government works for the good of the people, remember?
It is right that she was convicted since she broke the law by not paying the tax. We cannot choose to pay only the taxes that we want to. However, seven days in prison for a pensioner for this offence seems excessive. Perhaps a community punishment would have been more appropriate. She is certainly not a danger to society. The money could have been collected from her pension (and I do realise that that approach would be very distasteful). For those who are opposed to the council tax, and I am, one needs to use the democratic processes to get it changed. We had an opportunity in May to make our voices heard, and the people chose a party that will keep the council tax. Now our next option is to lobby our MPs to get it changed.
John, Leamington Spa
No - she should not have been jailed. Instead of that people in her locality should have got behind her and refused to also pay. It's a disgrace and it shows how far someone is prepared to go for this government to realise that enough is enough.
How much does it cost to keep an elderly person in prison? This is a legitimate protest - council tax is painful enough for those of us who earn a good living. For a lot of pensioners, it's worse than the Poll Tax - and that takes some doing!
Andy Nield, Kent
Yes - she should be jailed. She broke the law and that's what happens as a result. It is not the role of the courts to apply punishments on the basis of public sentiment, simply a matter of determining whether or not she paid and then applying the penalty set out in the law. However, she is entirely justified in her protest. The far more pertinent question which should be being asked is whether or not the increase in the council tax was justified in the first place. To which my, and I suspect many others, answer would be no.
So now we're jailing old ladies while young car thieves get community service. It's all mad, hopelessly mad.
Frank Church, London, England
A close family member works for a London Borough Council and I continually hear about massive hiring of foreign agency staff (which cost a lot more than permanent workers), instances of those very staff claiming normal travel and meal expenses, nepotism and the creation of jobs for friends (without a proper advertises vacancy or process followed), the consumption of alcoholic drinks at lunchtime, and general idleness at work. Until we can be sure our Council Tax is used wisely and set fairly with regard to people's ability to pay - then it absolutely wrong for anyone to be punished for failing to pay. The onus is very much on the government (local and national) to demonstrate our money is well spent. I fully support Sylvia and only wish I had her bravery to stand up against the massive amounts taxation in the UK.
Yes of course she should - she broke the law. But in the queue (for jail) before her should be all those responsible for creating this misery for the poor in the first place. Then why not include all those responsible for a very illegal war. I could go on but my main point is that those in power should be more accountable, and that does not just mean losing your seat at the next election.
Brad, Lincoln, UK
She should not be jailed. If we all limited our Council Tax to inflation would they jail everyone? The people should act together to put the breaks on politicians who are out of touch and full of their own self importance.
Steve Adey, Wolverhampton, England
A sad state of affairs but the law is the law, no matter how unfair.
Yes, of course it was right she's broken the law. If she was 30 years younger it wouldn't have even made the news. I bet she still expects her bins to be taken and streets cleaned.
Pete, Macclesfield, UK
The Council Tax may is wrong and a regressive tax that does not take into account the ability to pay. However this does not give individuals the right to decide to pay or not. We live in a democracy and at the general election we could have voted for a local incomes tax. We didn't therefore we should all pay up!
Keith, Southend, Essex
I question the society we live in if the elderly can be sent to prison for debt. I thought we stopped this in the 19th century. We'll be sending children down the mines again next.
Good on her. We're massively over-taxed in this country and we need more Sylvias to stand up make the point.
I think it is right because we all have to pay it so there should be no excuse for pensioners not paying. I wish we didn't have to pay it but it is a fact of life - we have to pay council tax.
Jaimie Brooks, Erith, Kent
It is not the place of the courts to make the law, only to apply the law. This court had no choice but to apply the prescribed punishment. The Government has to change the law because if council tax continues to rise ahead of inflation there will come a point, and we are not far from that point obviously, when everyone will turn around and refuse to play the game. You would have great difficulty in applying the law to 30 million households.
Rick Hough, Knutsford, Cheshire
This action make me feel ashamed to be British, why jail a pensioner for such a tiny amount, when there are plenty avoiding much larger sums of money.
Liz Maxwell, Hertford, Herts
No, she should not be jailed. People get community orders and ASBOs, not a jail sentence, for doing much worse than this pensioner. It's high time someone stood up and highlighted the shocking plight of many pensioners in this country. Good luck Sylvia!
Colin Ormesher, Knottingley, UK
I am not a militant. I am a normal tax paying member of our society and I am appalled that we have sunk to the depths of jailing OAPs for non payment of Council Tax increases. It is shameful that this government railroads through all these increases in tax and then when people start to have trouble paying the government prefer to cost the taxpayer more money by jailing them instead of helping them. Shame on the 'Law makers' and 'powers that be'.
Irwin Bray, Sevenoaks UK
I am disgusted with the government. I, too, have a tiny income of which council tax is 20%.
Lawrence, Southampton, UK
This is completely ridiculous! All sorts of antisocial or dangerous lawbreakers are left to wander the streets and this poor woman is sent to gaol for less than £60. It's all very well for the magistrate to say it was costing the community to put her there, but what about the cost of bringing the case in the first place? The council should have had more sense: she has paid an increase in line with inflation - and probably higher than the increase in her pension.
Mazda, London, UK
Her stance is a purely political gesture, not that of an impoverished pensioner scraping by on a tiny pension. To compare her to Emily Pankhurst is (a) wildly inaccurate, and (b) offensive.
Dr Martyn Amos, Exeter, Devon