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  • Freemen on the land

    Freemen on the land


    • "Freemen-on-the-land" are a loose group of individuals who believe in a conspiracy theory that they are bound by statute laws only if they consent to those laws. They believe that they can therefore declare themselves independent of the government and the rule of law, holding that the only "true" law is their own interpretation of "common law". Freemen are active in English-speaking countries: the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

      In the Canadian court case Meads v. Meads, Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Associate Chief Justice John D. Rooke used the phrase "Organised Pseudolegal Commercial Arguments" (OPCA) to describe the techniques and arguments used by freemen in court describing them as frivolous and vexatious. There is no recorded instance of freeman tactics being upheld in a court of law; in refuting one by one each of the arguments used by Meads, Rooke concluded that "a decade of reported cases, many of which he refers to in his ruling, have failed to prove a single concept advanced by OPCA litigants."

      Freemen-on-the-land are also called "Freemen-of-the-land" and the "Freemen movement". They may be an offshoot of the sovereign citizen movement. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) classifies sovereign citizen extremists as domestic terrorists, and states that these groups may refer to themselves as "freemen".

      "Freemen" believe that statute law is a contract, and that individuals can therefore opt out of statute law, choosing instead to live under what they call "common" (case) and "natural" laws. Under their theory, natural laws require only that individuals do not harm others, do not damage the property of others, and do not use "fraud or mischief" in contracts. They say that all people have two parts to their existence – their body and their legal "person". The latter is represented by the individual's birth certificate; some freemen claim that it is entirely limited to the birth certificate. Under this theory, a "strawman" is created when a birth certificate is issued, and this "strawman" is the entity who is subject to statutory law. The physical self is referred to by a slightly different name – for example "John of the family Smith", as opposed to "John Smith".



      In a subsequent ruling on another OPCA case, Gauthier v. Starr 2016 ABQB 213, Justice Rooke noted that, following the ruling, Meads had abandoned OPCA strategies and concluded the litigation in an orderly fashion.
      • Dennis Larry Meads of Edmonton, Alberta, stormed out of a hearing in the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta on 8 June 2012, related to his divorce and matrimonial property case. In response, Associate Chief Justice John D. Rooke wrote a lengthy and comprehensive 185-page judgment rejecting various freemen claims, grouping them with other pseudolegal arguments as "Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Arguments" (OPCA), specifically, in this case, Meads' Freeman on the Land claims, arguments and documents, saying that:
      • Elizabeth Watson came to public attention in 2011 as a self-styled legal adviser for Victoria Haigh in a (child) custody case; she was given a nine-month prison sentence for contempt of court (later suspended). She had defaced court documents by writing the words "no contract" and otherwise refused to accept or acknowledge the authority of a court of law, by amongst other things refusing to respond to the written legal notices or other correspondences from the court, and styled and addressed herself and Ms Haigh in the irregular fashion as "Elizabeth of the Watson family" and "Victoria of the Haigh family" respectively, instead of their names in the normal and usual mode of rendering.
      • Mark Bond of Norfolk, England, was arrested in 2010 for non-payment of tax, despite handing police a "notice of intent" stating that he was no longer a UK citizen. He told police that the notice had already been delivered to the Queen and the prime minister. He told the local paper: "Today I asked the judge to walk into the court under common law and not commercial law. If I had entered under commercial law it would prove that I accepted its law. I was denied my rights to go in there." He was sentenced to three months custody, suspended on condition that he pay off the debt at £20 a week.
      • Bobby Sludds appeared in court in County Wexford in Ireland, charged with various motoring offences including two counts of no insurance. Before the police began to give evidence, the accused handed in a letter stating he was not Mr Sludds but Bobby of the family Sludds and questioning the use of the word 'person' in the charge. He was given two suspended sentences and a fine of €670. (He had 24 previous convictions for motoring offences.)
      • Wilfred Keith Thompson and two others were arrested by police in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, charged with breaking, entering and theft as well as firearms offences. Thompson had previously made headlines for informing City Hall, local police, Guelph MP Frank Valeriote, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other officials he is "an autonomous being not controlled by others". One of his co-defendants, Trevor “Red” De Block, refused to identify himself to the court, though it was said that his criminal mug shot, computer records, tattoos and other information confirmed his identity. "I object," De Block said, adding that he was not the "rightful owner" of his name, but refusing to clarify or participate in legal proceedings. "I don’t bow down to bail [sic] . . . to false gods," he said, and rejected assistance from the appointed lawyer. Thompson and De Block were denied bail.
      • Dean Marshall of Preston, Holderness, near Hull, East Yorkshire, England, was taken to court after he was found to be growing 26 cannabis plants in his garden shed. Claiming he was a Freeman on the Land and therefore not guilty, he then attempted to call up Queen Elizabeth II and (the prime minister) David Cameron as his witnesses, although he was told that neither was available to attend. A jury at Hull Crown Court dismissed his claims and convicted him of conspiracy to produce cannabis for which he was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended upon entering into a good behavior bond for two years, and was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
      • Doug Jones of Pembroke Dock, Pembrokeshire, Wales, spent 22 days in prison after refusing to take a breath test. Jones questioned the authority and jurisdiction of the court, asking to see the judge's 'Oath of Office' which resulted in a sentence of fourteen days for contempt of court. He was sentenced to a further seven days after failing to attend a second hearing, but pleaded guilty to the original charges, receiving an endorsement on his driving licence. His interest in the Freemen on the Land movement started after watching documentaries on conspiracy theories surrounding the September 11 attacks and London bombings. His solicitor, Phillipa Ashworth, stated "On this occasion, in hindsight he appreciates it was not the time to test out philosophical theories behind this approach to life, and in hindsight it isn’t something he would do again."
      • Gavin Kaylhem of Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, England, wilfully refused to pay his council tax debts of £1,268.54 accrued between 2001 and 2008 and was sentenced to 30 days' imprisonment. He had claimed that he was a "Freeman" and thus had no contractual duty under common law to pay. He refused to co-operate with magistrates' questions.
      • Mandeep Sandhu of Tividale, Sandwell, West Midlands, was stopped by police while driving a car that was insured to a woman. He refused to give his details to the officers, saying that to do so would mean "entering into a contract he could not afford to fulfil". He refused to co-operate at the police station and when brought before Sandwell Magistrates' Court, in October 2015, Sandhu was convicted of driving without insurance and obstructing police and was also found in contempt of court. He was sentenced to 14 days in prison for the contempt, and ordered to pay £330 in fines for the insurance charge with court costs and had 6 points added to his licence. A spokesperson for West Midlands Police said:
      • Errol Denton, a live blood analysis practitioner, was charged with offences under the Cancer Act 1939. At Westminster Magistrates' Court, he used a Freeman defence. Since both the prosecution and the defence were rare, it was reported in the press. On March 20, 2014 he was convicted on all nine counts and fined £9,000 plus around £10,000 in costs.
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