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'I went to prison for being poor'

Melanie Woolcock was wrongly sent to prison for failing to pay her council tax, and wants the law changed so that other people don't suffer the same ordeal.

Melanie Woolcock was wrongly sent to prison for failing to pay her council tax, and wants the law changed so that other people don't suffer the same ordeal.

Melanie was given 81 days in prison by Bridgend magistrates after failing to pay ten pounds a week towards her debt. She challenged her sentence, and after 40 days behind bars, the high court ruled that she should never have been put in prison. Campaigners on this issue say this is happening in many cases because magistrates and their legal advisers are ignorant of well-established legal principles - a judgement last month suggested up to 1 in 5 committals to prison for debt are unlawfully handed down each year - although some estimates put it much higher.

A Bridgend county council spokesman said authorities had a legal responsibility to collect unpaid council tax, but offer support and help to anyone who is experiencing difficulty and prosecution is always a last resort.

The spokesperson added: "We understand that the resident in this case was jailed after failing to meet the requirements of the suspended sentence issued by the magistrates' court. Our advice to anyone who is experiencing difficulty paying their council tax is to contact us as early as possible so that we can help and advise them."

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5 minutes