Burnley woman’s council tax demand in prison cell

Joseph Greathead whose daughter has been sent council tax reminders  in prison.
Joseph Greathead whose daughter has been sent council tax reminders in prison.

A shocked Burnley woman awaiting sentence in prison was sent a council tax bill – to her jail cell.

Sophie Hartley, formerly of Whittle Court, was gobsmacked when a final demand letter was sent to her cell at HMP Styal women’s prison where she is being held on remand.

The Burnley Council letter threatened Sophie to pay off the £140 sum within seven days – or face court action and even prison.

Now her furious parents are questioning why the council is hounding their daughter for payment while she is behind bars.

Mum Maxine, of Kings Causeway, Brierfield, said: “She has made a mistake and she is paying the price. She is already pretty distressed and upset. She is trying to rebuild her life and they are sending her threatening letters. She is worried she may have to go back to jail when she gets out.”

Sophie has been on remand at the prison near Manchester since March after being charged with GBH with intent.

She was sent a bill in April for council tax arrears pre-dating her remand period. Then around a month later she was posted a final demand letter to pay up in seven days.

Dad Joseph said while his daughter was liable for the council tax bill, that it should not have been sent to the prison.

“There are women who have been in there for 10 years who have never heard of anything like it.

“The people in there were laughing their heads off – they were joking they would let her out to go to the Post Office to pay it.

“The first time, the council said it was a computer error – but someone has put that address in the computer. I think it is a cock up by them.

“Even her solicitor said he had never heard of this happening.”

They contacted Burnley Council’s tax collections department and claim they were first told it must have been a “computer error”.

Council officials then asked if they wanted to transfer the address to the family home – but the couple refused.

Maxine said: “They obviously knew she was in jail because they sent the letter there.

“She said they do chase people owing money when they are in prison.

“They are bullies. I asked them how she would be able to pay. What should she do? Ask the judge to let her out so she can pay it?

“Are they going to send the bailiffs in? Would it really be in tax-payers interest to take her from jail to court?”

A spokesman for Burnley Council said: “We were contacted by a landlord and given Styal Prison as her current address.

“We spoke to the family who declined to use their address as their daughter’s current address.

“We contact people at their last known address and Styal Prison was her last known address.

“The account is temporarily on hold until circumstances are clearer.”