This is the third occasion on which 80-year-old Jimmy McGrath, landlord of the King William IV has been dragged to Highbury Magistrates’ court and it won’t be the last.
He refuses to pay Hampstead Village BID Ltd's 'levy' on principle and is being seen by many businesses as a local hero - a martyr to the cause. He's certainly taking one for the team.
But the reason he might well win this case isn’t because the BID extorts money from the 70% of Hampstead businesses, schools and charities who didn’t vote for it; nor that Camden Council acts as debt enforcer for the private limited company – nor even that several businesses have complained of being repeatedly coerced and harassed by the BID’s unapologetic management.
These certainly are just some of the reasons he and an increasing number of 'hereditaments' – as the BID likes to call them – do not wish to pay it, and why on Monday the 17th of March 2019, he told the court: “I’d rather go to jail than pay the BID”.
District Judge Julia Newton couldn’t quite believe her ears: ‘I’m sorry Mr. McGrath, I couldn’t quite hear what you said. Could you please repeat it?’ Mr. McGrath did so unashamedly. “I’d rather go to jail than pay the BID.” It was quite a moment.
More eyebrows were raised too when, after nearly an hour of cross-examination, and already having read various documents, Camden’s tax officer, Charles Quick, admitted he couldn’t read the date on a document in front of him because he’d forgotten to bring his glasses.
But Mr. Griffiths was more interested in Camden's three-man legal team forgetting to bring along a crucial piece of evidence than their spectacles. The document in question? A legally binding information ‘insert’ sent out with all 241 BID invoices.
Before long the QC was to reveal, what might well be, the killer blow for Hampstead Village BID Ltd...
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Sorry darlings, no more Mr. Nice Guy. Writers have bills too!
Emmanuel 'Mustafa' Goldstein
Editor in public gallery.