Bradford test case ruling A NUN who claimed she would have to abandon her vocation if she had to pay the poll tax has won a test case against her local authority.
Sr Carmel Bateson, of the Holy Family Bordeaux Convent, Allerton, Bradford, has been told by West Yorkshire Community Charge Appeal Tribunal that she has won her appeal against Bradford council's ruling that she should pay the tax.
And, although the council has the right to appeal to a higher court or to ask the tribunal to reconsider the decision, a spokesman said this week it was unlikely that they would do so.
The tribunal's decision, which would mean hundreds of other nuns, priests and monks around
the country will have their poll tax withdrawn, came after a hearing at Bradford City Hall last month when Sr Carmel disputed the council's claim that she did not qualify for religious exemption under poll tax law because she had a personal income.
She argued that, although she did earn a salary as a deputy head teacher, this was paid under a covenent to her order, and that it had been a condition of her entering the order that it should be so. Any money she made had to go to support the work of her order, Sr Carmel said.
Bradford City Council had argued that it was Sr Carmel's choice to give her income to the Holy Family sisters, and that to
qualify for religious exemption people had to have no income or savings and be dependent on an order.
The deputy clerk of the appeals tribunal, Glen McDougall, said only a handful of religious exemption cases had come before tribunals nationally and he believed Sr Carmel's case was the first of its kind in the north.
Nicholas Coote, assistant general secretary to the Catholic bishops' conference of England and Wales. said he was delighted to hear of Sr Carmel's success. "I would certainly welcome this decision because it clears up any possible ambiguity," he said. "We always argued that is what the law had meant, although some people were disputing it."