'Freeman of the land' causes chaos in Wigan court

Graver called the court a "foreign vessel in a dry dock"
Graver called the court a "foreign vessel in a dry dock"

A man narrowly avoided jail after his refusal to answer a court’s questions and confirm his identity plunged the hearing into chaos.


Justices were left baffled by the antics of Barrington Graver, who had been called before Wigan magistrates over £2,400 in unpaid fines for illegal street trading, possessing prohibited goods and having no insurance.

The hearing was farcical from the start, when Graver refused to answer routine questions and disputed the justice system’s power to prosecute him.

The bench took a dim view of the 58-year-old’s attempts to undermine it, and gave him a suspended prison sentence which will be activated if he continues not to pay his fine.

Graver, of Poplar Street, Leigh, began by stating that “the truth is just an opinion” after swearing the oath.

He then refused to confirm his name or address to the court’s legal advisor, a routine part of any court case. Instead, he handed the advisor his birth certificate, saying: “There is my name. I did not consent to it. It was given to me at birth.”

Staggered, the bench pressed on, saying he would be addressed as Mr Graver for the duration of proceedings.

It was then revealed that Graver had refused to attend another hearing in November because he did not agree to being called by his full name in letters from the court.

When asked to explain this, he launched into another tirade, referring to the courtroom as “a foreign vessel in a dry dock” and calling himself the “postmaster of this dock”.

He then took issue with the wording of legal documents sent to him by prosecutors, describing them as “quantum syntax grammar”.

He persistently failed to give straight answers when asked why he had not paid any of the fines, and also kept interrupting the chair of the bench and called the legal language “fictitious”.

Frustrated by Graver’s lack of respect, the bench imposed a suspended 45-day prison term, which will hang over him until the entire £2,423.32 is repaid.

He continued to talk about “syntax grammar” even after sentence was passed, and was eventually told to leave the courtroom by an usher.

Graver appeared to believe he was acting as a “freeman of the land”. They are a loosely defined group who believe the law is something that can be opted out of, and that they are only subject to laws they agree to be governed by.

There is no recorded example of these tactics being successful in a UK court.