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Thursday, 18 December 2014

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'Freeman' refuses to enter pleas to charges at Carlisle court

A man failed to get criminal charges against him dismissed – after being reminded he lived in England.

Stephen Welch, 52, of Maryport Road, Dearham, near Maryport, appeared at Carlisle Crown Court yesterday to argue whether the court had the right to try him.

At an earlier hearing, Welch had claimed to be a “freeman of the land” – an obscure group whose members believe they do not have to abide by laws imposed by the Government, and that laws he was said to have broken did not apply to him.

Welch was accused of three breaches of fire regulations at the Evolution Centre, in Highfield Road, Cockermouth. Two are alleged to have occurred on April 3 last year, with another on July 27.

He represented himself in court – despite having been advised to get legal advice. He spoke from the dock, where defendants usually stand, but said he only did so “under protest”.

Welch told the court he disagreed with the case being made against him.

He said: “Not once have I refused to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the court.

“All I asked for was evidence.”

Welch added: “At no time has there been evidence provided to me that there is jurisdiction over me.”

However, his argument was refuted.

Judge Peter Hughes, said: “The evidence is here all around you. You are in a court of law and you are here because a case has been brought against you in a magistrates court for hearing in the crown court.

“You are subject to the jurisdiction of the court like every other person in England.

“You are no different from anyone else who lives in Maryport,” he added.

Judge Hughes then pointed out Welch had not entered pleas to the charges against him.

When read the three charges Welch refused to enter a plea.

Judge Hughes said this should be listed as not guilty on all three counts.

He set a trial date of October 20 and gave Welch a warning.

He said: “I will give you every opportunity possible to make your case but I make it plain to you that I will not tolerate any nonsense.”

Welch will be tried under the name Steve Michael, after the court heard it was a name he was also known as.

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