Yes, Ritchie does want to overturn our entire system of law

An interesting little detail here:

For example, I think the burden of proof should rest with the taxpayer in all cases when an action is taken under these rules.

Yup. If you\’re being sued by the taxman it will be up to you to prove your innocence, not for the State to prove your guilt.

Entirely overturning some centuries of jurisprudence and completely upending the most basic of civil liberties.

They\’ve got to prove you\’re a bad\’un, not you prove you\’re not.

Note that he\’s not even suggesting that criminal standards of proof must be reduced to civil ones, from beyond reasonable doubt to on the balance of probabilities.

He really is saying that if the Government comes after you you must prove, beyond reasonable doubt, your innocence.

This is the sort of suggestion that in more robust times would be met with a lamp post and a piece of hempen.

In these times of course something less dramatic: Richard, is your lust for tax revenues really so great that you would over turn the very basis of our law, the presumption of innocence?

27 thoughts on “Yes, Ritchie does want to overturn our entire system of law”

  1. That pretty much happens anyway, doesn’t it? You receive a tax bill from HMRC which you must pay, and if it is wrong you must demonstrate that it is wrong or pay up regardless.

  2. But also, is not this the basis of “corpus juris” as used in the EU. There you are guilty unless you can prove your innocence, only you cannot get out to prove it anyway, no “habeus corpus” there, or jury trials.

  3. I’m not sure which rules he’s talking about, but tax decisions are usually on civil “balance of probabilities” principle rather than criminal reasonable doubt.

    Unless of course it’s a criminal action, for fraud or tax evasion.

  4. But I seem to remember a pretty good case being made here that Murphy had indulged in a bit of tax planning himself.

    Would he care to have to prove his innocence beyond reasonable doubt, with the presumption against him?

  5. Richard (3&4 above) makes some good points. From what he has posted on his arrangements (and at times when others have pointed out his companies, tax breaks, using his wife etc) I would suspect that he is actively tax avoiding! I’m not saying evading just avoiding or planning. But then again, that isn’t in the spirit of the law is it?

  6. HMRC: You have paid all your PAYE but not the [insert ludicrous figure] for self-employed/cash-in-hand business. Please pay [ludicrous figure x 40%] or it’s off to jail with you, matey.

    You: But I haven’t done any self-employed/cash-in-hand business

    HMRC: tough titties. It’s up to you to prove your innocence.

    You: But I can’t. There is nothing to show so of course I don’t have any supporting documentation.

    HMRC: Excellent – let’s add “failure to keep adequate records” to the charge sheet.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  7. Richard and John Buckles

    1) Richard has good intentions which overrule the spirit of the law

    2) Richard imagines himself an insider in this fantasy world of his, i.e. he will not have to pay taxes or do any manual work.

  8. Prof. Andrew Simms, Department of Economics, the London School of Home Economics and Domestic Science

    It seems eminently sensible to me.

  9. Tim, not entirely sure on this, but I think you overlook the distinction between criminal and civil cases. If the HMRC is conducting a criminal case against you for tax fraud/dishonesty, then what you say is true: the burden will be upon the prosecutor (HMRC) and the standard will be ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. This is the basis for establishing facts in criminal trials.

    However, if the HMRC is conducting a civil case against you for missing tax, then (as far as I am aware) in civil law, the burden would usually fall on the party wishing to establish their claim (i.e. HMRC) but sometimes the burden falls on the other party. The standard of proof is then the ‘balance of probabilities’ – i.e. ‘more likely than not’. Ritchie might not be completely bonkers if this is what he is suggesting. However, this does not of course mean that I endorse his position – it is probably inappropriate for the burden to fall on the person being investigated, as the situation is very analogous to a criminal investigation, and by implication sits uneasily with the common law principles you have referred to.

  10. But the State is benevolent, all-seeing and good, no no evil could ever come from this. Only evil right-wing Tories would say any different, enjoying as they do the protection of the current neo-liberal “innocent till proven guilty” imperialist capitalist legal system.

  11. Re my previous post: an example of where the person in the defendant like position must discharge the burden of proof is in contentious probate cases – a person seeking to propound a will (against the claims of others seeking to show that it is not valid) must positively prove that it was executed properly. So there is a precedent for the burden of proof falling on the defendant; the issue is whether it is appropriate for this to be the case in a civil tax dispute with HMRC.

  12. Was this how the HMRC functionary who left a CD Rom with the personsl details of thousands of taxpayers on an Intercity train treated, one is forced to wonder?

  13. In fairness to Murphy, this is not the first time the Left has tried this (switching the burden of proof) – they tried it with people accused of rape under Harperson, and it’s only the ancient constitutional principles and the facade of Parliamentary democracy that have prevented them from extending it further.

  14. the issue is whether it is appropriate for this to be the case in a civil tax dispute with HMRC.

    We have already removed HMRC’s status as a preferred credit, given massive and intrusive investigative and ceasure powers to the Revenue part of HMRC which were previous only available to Customs for breaking up criminal gangs. Why on earth should we give them any more consideration.

    There are numerous circumstances where poor record keeping has led to an unwarranted investigation into small business owners and the self-employed.

    These people (often unrepresented by an accountant) are seen as ‘easy pickings’ for HMRC Inspectors as they are often unable to dispute the charges brought by HMRC as they are often highly technical in nature (deliberately so one could argue).

    The Inspectors often generate assessments by thinking of a number and then multiplying it by 12. It is only when challenged professionally that they start working their way back from their random number to a justification.

    Many people have heart attacks or commit suicide from the pressure of having to deal with a HMRC investigation.

    The difficulty is that HMRC has no duty of care to those it abuses. Only the threat of taking a matter to the First Tier Tribunal often stops the abuse and deceit.

    HMRC should have their existing powers drastically reduced, not given additional means to prosecute and torment those whose only crime is to be poor record keepers or trying to live on a very small self-employed income.

  15. I think RM’s viewpoint might be somewhat different. I remember an exchange of tweets with my brother in which RM argued that income was a “conditional property right”. In other words, income is not yours until the taxman has taken what he considers you owe. If you look at RM’s statement through this prism, it makes some sort of sense: if the taxman says you owe money, you do – because if he says your income isn’t actually yours, it isn’t. The burden of proving that you don’t owe that money, and therefore the income is yours, falls on you.

  16. @ Frances Coppola – I have encountered this copernican revolution before when talking to Statists. Many of them honestly believe that your money isn’t yours until the tax man has taken his fair share. This change of perspective has a number of knock-on effects, such as seeing benefit fraudsters as less morally culpable than tax evaders.

  17. Frances…stop it…you have fallen through the mirror into the Murph-meister’s weird self-serving (as long as they do not prosecute him for not paying business rates on the office he shares with gardening tools and his son’s trainset) distortion of reality

  18. “England is planted thick with laws, Man’s Laws, not God’s. And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of Law for my own safety’s sake…”

    Richard Murphy, like so many of his ilk (and ilks adjacent and some further), pick and choose the Law to suit their own twisted agenda. Such people should be kept away from Law and power as turds from swimming pools.

  19. diogenes

    No, I stared into the black hole briefly, that’s all. Hovered just above the event horizon so I was able to escape. I’m still in this universe, honestly.

  20. @John Galt: the scenarios you highlight where HMRC can bully people are not theoretical, they actually do happen.

    Many years ago my parents were inspected by the then Inland Revenue. The IR considered that their cash drawing from their business were too small, and as such they must be evading tax. As they weren’t and were actually living on a pittance (which you can do, if you grow your own food, wear jumble sale clothes, never go out, work 6 days a week, and go to church on Sundays) they lacked the money to pay accountants and lawyers to try and prove they were not doing anything wrong. They had to accept a fine, and pay tax on income they never had. The only way they managed to survive was by selling a few bits of antique furniture my Father had inherited from his parents.

    I have never forgiven the IR for the way they treated my parents, and I never will. I hope the taxman who made that decision rots in hell.

  21. @ Tim Newman
    Not necessarily. I keep getting statements from HMRC: I don’t have to *prove* they are wrong but I *am* legally required to ring them up or write to them to point out their mistakes. Usually they just accept that I am right, as usual, because the poor guys on the end of the ‘phone know that HMRC make an appalling number of mistakes (a couple of years ago the press said 30% of all assessments were wrong but that is utter bunkum – the assessments of 30% of taxpayers were proved to be wrong after the taxpayer complained which excludes all those who just have PAYE and no other tax to pay and those who cannot understand the tax assessment well enough to identify the mistakes – it must be well over 50% of all assessments by HMRC).
    If it was just the balance of probabilities, then the taxpayer’s word would win the case unless HMRC provided some supporting evidence. So the only reasonable interpretation is that Ritchie wants the burden of proof to rest on the taxpayer – prove that you had no undeclared income.

  22. “If you’re being sued by the taxman it will be up to you to prove your innocence”. What do you mean “will be ” ?

    I WAS chased by the taxman, and every piece of money in I could not PROVE to not be income was deemed to be so, £ 26,000 tax, interest and fine PLEASE, what with another 4 years being included in the calculation.

    Alan Douglas

  23. So Much For Subtlety

    Ummm, while I am totally on board about the utter awfulness of the Murphmeister and the Inland Revenue, the presumption of innocence is quite a new phenomenon in English law. There is not a lot of evidence for it before the 18th century. And by the mid-19th century it was being undermined by the growth of things like safety regulations where you have a burden of proof that you have acted appropriately. There have always been areas of (mainly civil) law where there is no presumption of innocence – slander and libel for instance.

    But that does not mean we want to expand ’em.

  24. Richard Shaxson lives in Switzerland, doesn’t he? Perhaps this man – who wrote a book attacking tax havens – should be subjected to Murphy’s bracing approach to the rule of law.

    Just trying to be helpful, you understand.

  25. the presumption of innocence is quite a new phenomenon in English law. There is not a lot of evidence for it before the 18th century.

    ISTM there is some difficulty in that the principle might have been articulated in a different way.

    For example,

    “As early as the thirteenth century, English courts ruled that individuals accused of a felony could not be treated as felons because “felony is never fastened on any person before he is by judgment convicted as guilty of the deed.”

  26. Damn. If Charles I had had that, he could have lived on ship money and we wouldn’t have ever had to put up with these politician in the first place.

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