Deputy Commissioner of Taxation v Casley [2017] WASC 161

After nearly a 50 year standoff with the micronation, in Deputy Commissioner of Taxation v Casley [2017] WASC 161 1 Justice Le Miere of the Supreme Court of Western Australia ordered “Prince Leonard” Casley of the Principality of Hutt River, to pay more than A$2.7 million in unpaid taxes, and his son Arthur Casley to pay more than A$242,000 in unpaid taxes. The judge said:

“Each of the defendants has filed an affidavit and written submissions and made oral submissions to the effect that the court does not have jurisdiction over the defendant or to hear the matter because they are the sovereign of, or citizen of, the Hutt River Province which is an independent sovereign state. That argument has no legal merit or substance. Anyone can declare themselves a sovereign in their own home but they cannot ignore the laws of Australia or not pay tax.

Each of the defendants advances the pseudo legal straw man argument. The straw man argument has no legal merit or substance. Leonard Casley advances an argument based on the Hutt River Province being the political and financial branch of the church of Nian. That argument has no legal merit or substance. The defendants have made other assertions in their affidavits and submissions which are irrelevant and raise no defence to the claims against them. In an affidavit filed by Leonard Casley he swore:

“I am the Real Man, Leonard George Casley born at Kalgoorlie Western Australia on 27 August 1925. Upon the registration of my birth certificate, it is claimed that I became a ward of the state. Owing allegiance to the Monarch, under contract and the Monarch undertakes the protection of myself and my property. I am Leonard George Casley, a real man not a straw man. The Straw Man is a fictitious body, which does not exist, but is that which is controlled by the State, and the State’s judiciary.”

An affidavit filed by Arthur Casley contains similar statements. This appears to be a variant of the strange pseudo‑legal straw man theory. The theory holds that an individual has two personas, one of himself as a real flesh and blood human being and the other, a separate legal personality who is the straw man. The idea is that an individual’s debts, liabilities, taxes and legal responsibilities belong to the straw man rather than the physical individual who incurred those obligations, conveniently allowing one to escape their debts and responsibilities. It is all gobbledygook.

Leonard Casley referred to the establishment of the church of Nain. In a document filed in the court Mr Casley said that the Hutt River Province Principality is the political and financial branch of the church of Nain. In answer to a question from the court Mr Casley referred to s 116 of the Constitution which precludes the Commonwealth from making laws for establishing any religion, imposing any religious observance or prohibiting the free exercise of any religion. It has nothing to do with the defendants’ liability to pay tax.

In affidavits and submissions filed by the defendants they made numerous other statements irrelevant to the issues before the court. They range from the merely irrelevant to the bizarre, such as the statement that the ATO has been utilising a form of torture known as ‘Old Hags Nagging’. It is not sensible or a proper use of judicial resources to recite and analyse all of the defendants’ utterances masquerading as legal submissions. It is sufficient to say that none of them raises a defence to the Deputy Commissioner’s claims or any reason why there ought to be a trial of the claims.”

Click to access deputy-commissioner-of-taxation-v-casley-2017-wasc-161.pdf

The decision was appealed in Casley v Deputy Commissioner of Taxation [2017] WASCA 196 2 on the grounds that the primary judge erred in failing to recognise that the appellants’ farming property in Northampton which the appellants call the ‘Principality of Hutt River’ is an independent sovereign state which seceded from Australia in 1970, with the result that the appellants are not residents of Australia for taxation purposes.

Click to access casley-v-deputy-commissioner-of-taxation-2017-wasca-196.pdf

This follows from an earlier challenge that was appealed to the High Court a decade before in Casley v Commissioner of Taxation [2007] HCATrans 590 3

“These are applications to remove two sets of proceedings from the Geraldton Magistrates Court to this Court under s 40 of the Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth). Each of the proceedings relate to offences of not filing taxation returns. The applicants contend that they reside in the so-called “Hutt River Province” and that that is not part of Australia and not subject to Australian taxation laws. The arguments advanced by the applicants are fatuous, frivolous and vexatious. They certainly raise no issue justifying removal under s 40. There are in the joint application book copies of documents purporting to be notices under s 78B of the Judiciary Act. They have been filed. It is not clear whether they have been served. In view of the completely unarguable nature of the points raised by the applicants, there is no matter of the kind described in s 78B and there is no obstacle to the application being dismissed now.”

Click to access casley-v-commissioner-of-taxation-2007-hcatrans-590.pdf

In 2020, the Principality of Hutt River was dissolved and the property sold as farmland in order to pay off the sizable debt to the Australian Taxation Office. 4


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