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Organised Pseudolegal Commercial Argument Schemes in the United Kingdom

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Don't take legal advice from a billboard.
I fought the law
and the law won

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us crazy
Some dare call it
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What THEY don't want
you to know!
Sheeple wakers
Ridiculous nonsense printed off from the internet.
—Adam Wagner, human rights Lawyer[1]
Go to a lawyer, not Google.
—Ellie Cumbo, The Law SocietyWikipedia[2]

UK Organised Pseudolegal Commercial Argument (OPCA) schemes (including sovereign citizens and freeman on the land) predominantly consist of anti-government activists who misapply English common law in the belief that Clause 61 of the Magna Carta is legally relevant (spoiler: it never was)[3] and applies across the whole of the country (spoiler: it never did). The ideology, which dates back to the 1970s in its native USA, first started to gain momentum in the UK around 2010 and boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic with antivax, anti-lockdown, and COVID-19 denialism sentiment. The movement has developed its own media outlets and its own illegal schools.

The one true law[edit]

We rightly celebrate Magna Carta as an important part of our legal system, so it's understandable that people think that the full original text still has full legal standing.
—Ellie Cumbo, The Law Society[2]

The pseudolegal concept of lawful rebellion, known within the UK's OPCA movements as the one true law, comes from Clause 61 of the original 1215 Magna Carta which called for the election of a group of 25 barons to keep “the peace and liberties […] granted by this charter" with the right for them to "claim immediate redress" if any of the articles were broken. This version of the charter was struck down by the Pope within a couple of months and subsequent versions did not include this clause.[3] It is, nonetheless, held up by far right and anti-establishment activists as justification for rebellion against the legal and political "elites".[2]

And while some are engaged in willful defiance of laws passed by elites that they consider unjust, there are also those, notes The Law Society's Ellie Cumbo, who due to a lack of basic legal knowledge, exacerbated by poor advice found online, get swept along by the wrong idea about how law works.[2]

Lawless rebellion[edit]

There is no such concept in our law as a sovereign citizen.
—Ellie Cumbo, The Law Society[4]

The freeman on the land movement crossed over to the UK with organisations such as the British Constitution Group and people such as the late John Harris (who later regretted joining the freeman movement), Brian Gerrish, Raymond St Clair (a notorious conman and man of many aliases)[5] and Dominic Lohan (a.k.a., CommonlyKnownAsDom). Freeman arguments came to UK public attention when they tried recruiting amongst the more anarchist-leaning protesters at the Occupy London protests in late 2011, and even got two articles in the Guardian.[6][7] These were promptly slapped down by actual lawyers who detailed how this was dangerous idiocy that would send you directly to jail.[8][9][10][11] Freeman ideas are now an object of amusement for the British legal profession.[12]

Legal name fraud[edit]

It's a kind of brew of pseudo-legal ideas. It's the equivalent of thinking Harry Potter is science.
—Carl Gardner, law blogger and lecturer[13]

In 2016 billboards appeared across the UK featuring the cryptic message:




This oxymoron writ large was in reference to a variation of strawman theory which claims that birth certificates give the state legal ownership of a personal name and that refusing to use this name denies the authority of state and courts. As the related and now defunct website clarified:

Simply thus, all legal names are owned by the Crown, and therefore using a legal name without their written permission is fraud.[13]

Investigations by Jon Kelly for BBC News Magazine[13] and Geoff Whelan for The Skeptic[14] linked the billboards to Canadian freeman on the land "Kate of Gaia" (a.k.a., Wilfred Keith Thompson), Although neither were unable to confirm who had paid for them or the website. Of the "reams of this guff" on Kate's blog, Whelan highlights this indicative extract:

In laymen’s terms, the clausula rebis sic stantibus is the escape clause where a FUNDAMENTAL change in circumstances renders contracts/treaties etc. null and void… the fundamental change moment?… it’s illegal to be legal anything, mind, body, spirit. The original Birth Certificate contract is the PROOF and EVIDENCE of a clear and present INTENT to deceive another by it’s mere existence… registry buildings are proof of intent to foment this deception… everything created to put this fraud into practice is proof of fraud intent ab initio (since before it was ACT-DEAD upon where you are ACT-DEAD until truth is ACT-DEED… when you throw down, with force, the dead legal name (all ideas ATTACHED/attacked to it), with intent to destroy that from your reality, the real Shemitah/CRSS comes into full force and effect..[14]

Whelan, a criminal barrister, confirms that while Kate of Gaia has used words such as proof, evidence and intent as well as some (misspelt) Latin, the similarity to actual law ends there.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) confirmed that it had received complaints about the posters on the basis that they were ambiguous or misleading, in which, "Some questioned whether it would lead law-abiding people into thinking they've committed fraud or a crime by having a name." ASA, however, concluded that while it "may appear somewhat confusing to consumers and it wasn't initially clear what it was for or what it means", its message, "was not particularly harmful, misleading or likely to cause widespread offence, and unlikely to cause consumers confusion regarding their own name".

Lecturer and law blogger Carl Gardner, however, disagreed:

It is nothing about law, and it is not harmless. Taking this daftness seriously can be legally dangerous. If people try to use such things to avoid their legal obligations they can end up with county court judgments or even criminal convictions.[13]

Whelan agrees, "Sadly this is not some harmless crank theory. People have actually relied on this nonsense in courts in the UK, Canada and the US."

Pandemic shenanigans[edit]

Some think they can opt out of law in the same way that some people think they can opt out of science and vaccines.
—Ellie Cumbo, The Law Society[2]

The embrace of pseudolegal schemes parallels the rejection of "elitist" scientific expertise, which accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, notes The Law Society's Ellie Cumbo.[2]

Anti-lockdown group Stand Up Bristol, which included tattoo artist turned conspiracy theorist Aron Walton in its reported 2,000 members, cited the Magna Carta in a threat to "seize public buildings" if Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees did not respond to their accusations of "treason" for his support for lockdown.[15]

During the COVID-19 lockdown a pseudolegal scheme called the Great Reopening convinced a number of small business owners and managers, including Walton and Sinead Quinn, to defy COVID-19 lockdown regulation and remain open while displaying a notice proclaiming their "right to enter into lawful dissent" and declaring the business "under the jurisdiction of common law". Needless to say, their legal challenges all failed.[2]

At an antivax/anti-lockdown protest in Parliament Square on July 19, 2021, Mark Sexton, who is of all things a retired policeman, made the extraordinary claim that unless lockdown was lifted and the vaccine rollout halted, citizens had the right to forcibly arrest MPs and ministers and establish common law courts.[16] By July 2022, he was issuing, "under common law," which is not to be confused with actual law, his own worthless arrest warrants for a number of prominent politicians, government advisors and media executives.[17]

A mob approached the bench at the Royal Courts of JusticeWikipedia in September 2021 attempting to serve the judge with notice of his Covid-related "crimes" and telling court officials they would be "going to the gallows" for genocide.[3][18]

Michael Chaves and Jamie Freeman lead a mob to the homes of media personalities Dr Hilary JonesWikipedia and Jeremy VineWikipedia and to a hospital in Colchester to serve notices of liability for "crimes against humanity" and to threaten them with a common law Nuremberg trial[3] (whatever the hell that might be) on the apparent legal basis of the Pope stripping NHS workers of their "liability" in 2013 so they could thus be "held in their personal capacity."[19]

Glaswegian beautician Janie Walsh lead the group Magna Carta 61 in serving notices to police accusing them of genocide and seizing Edinburgh CastleWikipedia for an unemployed security guard whom they believe to be King Arthur and thus its "rightful owner".[3]

During the pandemic, self-described "peace constable" Olli Riddett started advocating for illegal schools outside of mainstream education for the children of antivax/anti-lockdown parents.[20] A number of such schools, including HOPE Sussex and Universallkidz have been uncovered by the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted)Wikipedia and are under investigation.

Where are they getting this from?[edit]

A number of organisations promoting OPCAs have sprung up across the country which have been identified as primary sources of (dis)information for many in the UK sovereign citizen movement.[3]

UK Column[edit]

UK Column, a national organisation partly based in Plymouth, have included on their website items claiming Jews eat babies, and Biblical references stating they are the ancient enemy and discussion on the (antisemitic) Protocol of the Elders of Zion.[sic] It crosses the line.
—Georgina Allen, Totnes Councillor[21]

UK Column is a website edited by Brian Gerrish featuring conspiracy theories and antisemitism[21] which was launched in 2006 as self-published newspaper the Devonport Column with a readership of around 500 people in the Plymouth area to expose an elaborate scheme to lie to the people that Gerrish believed the local council were engaged in.[3] Gerrish who is a prominent figure in the British Constitution Group and the Lawful Rebellion movement has subsequently extended its reach.

Common Law Court[edit]

Common Law Court is a £50-per-month subscription website run by Darral Pinch (May 1968–)[22] and Laraine Pinch (February 1973–)[23] which supplies “identity cards,” other fake legal documents, and even attempted its own cryptocurrency, to help members “reclaim [their] rights.”[3]

Pinch was initially a strong supporter of New Zealand pseudo-journalist and conspiracy theorist Joseph Gregory Hallett's claim to the British throne as King John III,[24] stamping the series of pseudolegal documents Hallett produced to support his claim with the validation of Common Law Court. Fortunately, Pinch saw the error of his ways just in time to attend the coronation of unemployed security guard Gareth Barrett who proclaimed himself to be King Arthur.[3]

Alpha Men Assemble[edit]

Alpha Men Assemble is a far-right paramilitary group founded to protest COVID-19 vaccines, which describes itself as "free thinking men and women living as sovereign beings under common law".[18] It held "direct action" training sessions across the UK for breaking through police lines, marching in formation and sparring.[4]

I'm out of order! You're out of order! This whole courtroom is out of order![edit]

You may as well walk into court with a t-shirt saying 'I am an idiot'.
—Carl Gardner, law blogger and lecturer[13]

The press have reported on a number cases in English and Scottish courts where OPCAs have been advanced, none of them successfully.[2]

Philip McLoughlin[edit]

I refuse to participate.
—Philip McLoughlin[25]

Philip McLoughlin appearing in his own defence at Chester Crown Court in February 2022, after assaulting a police officer at an antivax protest in June 2021, claimed he had "not been charged with anything whatsoever," decried police documents as "bogus" and attempted to submit his own bundle of pseudolegal documents. He was finally found in contempt, arrested, and taken to the cells yelling: "That's battery, this is criminal, get off. Get off my paperwork. There is no justice, this is criminal." His trial was set for July.[26]

Appearing "under extreme duress" at Chester Crown Court again in May 2022, after obstructing a police officer at an antivax protest in January 2022,[27] he identified himself as "Philip" without his surname, repeated that he was "a living man" and "put the police on notice and the court on notice". His second trial was also set for July and on being told he was "free to leave the court", replied: "Yeah, I could have done that at any time."[25]

Steve Higginson[edit]

I am a living man, the blood flows, the flesh moves. I wish for remedy.
—Steve Higginson[28]

Steve Higginson appeared via video link in his own defence at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court in January 2021 for driving without insurance and MOT,[note 1] and hindering officers in the execution of their duty by failing to confirm his identity, address and nationality and provide fingerprints. He also spat and threw clothing at officers, and repeatedly urinated, defecated and spread excrement over his cell walls. Further offenses dated back to 2016 when in a violent struggle at Kirkcaldy’s Justice of the Peace Court he shouted, swore, repeatedly struck a door, attempted to hit police officers with a receptacle of unidentified liquid and failed to reappear at court on another date. Requesting to be called "Steve" which the sheriff politely refused, Higginson responded, "no comment" to his plea, claimed, "They were fake police officers," and, "They were not constables. They were enforcing civil law by force," before repeating his mantra, "I am a living man, the blood flows, the flesh moves. I wish for remedy."[28] At trial in February he trotted out the usual OPCA jargon about not needing insurance and MOT as he was “not acting in commerce”, and not being “compelled” to enter the Justice of the Peace Court, before submitting a multiple page document drawing from the Magna Carta, and Australian and Canadian law among other sources, which Sheriff Alastair Brown dismissed, stating:

Whoever drafted this does not have the slightest understanding of this or any other system of law.

Higginson also accused police officers of being “thugs” and acting as a “terrorist organisation”. He was subsequently found guilty.[29]

Paul Brittain[edit]

I have got a couple of photos and a head full of common sense.
—Paul Brittain[30]

Paul Brittain was taken to Teesside Magistrates' Court in March 2020 by Stockton CouncilWikipedia for breach of planning regulations over the unauthorised installation of a Juliet balconyWikipedia and French doorsWikipedia on his detached home, Paul Brittain immediately set alarm bells ringing by giving his name as "Paul of the family Brittain" and claiming "I live inside here" while pointing to his chest,[30] later clarifying "I live inside this body. Wherever this body goes is where I live." Explaining why he was unable to replace the unauthorised modifications, he claimed, "I can't afford to put the window in, my family are in dire straights[sic] and I have gone into survival mode." He then launched into full "a man on the land" mode stating, "I want to know where you get your authority from because I didn't consent to it," and "The police, the courts and the councils are private limited companies and I want to know how you trade with each other."[31] Demanding the council "cease and desist," he asked, "Have you even got a local authority or have you just got the illusion of one?" Finally claiming, "I have been down the council for some help, you don't get it, there's a thing called austerityWikipedia and bedroom tax.Wikipedia It's almost like there's a depopulation programme." The court ruled the modifications must be removed and sentenced him to pay a court bill of £940.[32]

Oliver Pinnock[edit]

All I was trying to do was protect our rights and let people know we have to use them or lose them.
—Oliver Pinnock[33]

Oliver "The Ringmaster" Pinnock (March 1981–)[34] is professional welterweight boxer and member (possibly the only one) of the group "Lawful Rebellion – Practical Lawful Dissent", who, after perhaps one to many hits to the head, tried to use Article 61 of the Magna Carta to exempt himself from paying his £875.44 council tax bill.[35] He later claimed this was done to "distress the tyrannical system," and stated:

I did a lot of research into the constitution and how our land is being taken over by corporations. In 2001, a group of peers invoked Article 61 of the Magna Carta, demanding the rights of the British people had to be defended.[33]

"We knew that council tax is the hardest way to do this but I wanted to take up the biggest challenge because I’m a fighter," he claimed, and he was right.[33] After failing to attend court in May 2017, Pinnock was arrested, sentenced to 25 days in jail, and released when he paid the money owed.[35] "I wouldn’t have paid if it wasn’t for my family but I can’t just think about myself," he heroically conceded.[33]

Mark McKenzie[edit]

Mark McKenzie is a self-employed music teacher who attempted to dodge £7,000 for seven-years of unpaid council tax by declaring himself a "Freeman-on-the-Land" and "independent of government jurisdiction". In July 2015, Manchester Magistrates’ sentenced him to one night in custody for contempt of court after trying to record proceedings and ordered him to pay his debt. After failing to respond to a summons the following November for continued non-payments, an arrest was issued.[36] Surrendering to authorities in May 2017, he was sentenced to 40 days in prison and ordered to repay his debt.[37]


  1. MOT is the Ministry of Transport's vehicular evidence of safety test.


  1. No, Magna Carta does not allow firms to defy Covid curbs (27 November 2020) AFP
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Covid lockdown: Why Magna Carta won’t exempt you from the rules by Alistair Coleman (6 March 2021) BBC News
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Putting the UK on notice: How US legal fiction inspired aggressive action from UK anti-vaxxers by Katherine Denkinson (October 31, 2021) The Citizens
  4. 4.0 4.1 Anti-vax protests: ‘Sovereign citizens’ fight UK Covid vaccine rollout by Alistair Coleman and Shayan Sardarizadeh (18 January 2022) BBC News
  5. "Exposing the freemen/redemption gurus" JREF
  6. Yes, defaulting on debts is an option (Jon Witterick, Guardian, 2011-11-15)
  7. We are the change: welfare, education and law at the Occupy camp ('commonly known as dom' [Dominic Lohan], Guardian, 2011-11-15)
  8. The law is not the enemy of protest but an essential tool of impartiality (Carl Gardner, Guardian, 2011-11-16)
  9. The freeman-on-the-land strategy is no magic bullet for debt problems (Legal Bizzle, Guardian, 2011-11-18)
  10. Comment is free, but woo is sacred (Legalbizzle, The Bizzle, 2011-11-15)
  11. Freemen of the dangerous nonsense (Adam Wagner, Legal Week, 2011-11-16)
  12. "Nonsense or loophole?" (Benchmark #57, February 2012, p 18) — blatantly plagiarised lovingly referenced from this very article.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 The mystery of the 'legal name fraud' billboards by Jon Kelly (11 June 2016) BBC News Magazine
  14. 14.0 14.1 ‘Legal Name Fraud’ – The Truth? It’s hogwash by Jon Kelly (1 April 2016) The Skeptic
  15. Covid-deniers: What is going through the heads of people who think coronavirus isn't real by Conor Gogarty (19 September 2020) Bristol Live
  16. Anti-Lockdown Protesters Tried to Capture a Scottish Castle. They Failed. by Tim Hume (August 18, 2021) VICE News
  17. UK sovereign citizen Mark Sexton has issued fake arrest warrants "under common law" for Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Sajid Javid, Priti Patel, Chris Whitty, Patrick Vallance, BBC Director-General and others. A reminder that these warrants are worthless and have no basis in law. by Shayan Sardarizadeh (July 23, 2022) Twitter (Archived July 23, 2022)
  18. 18.0 18.1 COVID Conspiracy Theorists ‘Alpha Men Assemble’ Hold Combat Training Sessions in UK by Tim Hume (7 January 2022) VICE News
  19. Anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists storm into hospital to serve 'legal documents' citing the 'Nuremberg Code' and accusing medics of complicity in 'crimes against humanity' by Jack Wright (21 October 2021) MailOnline
  20. Sovereign Citizens Are Trying To Set Up Their Own Anti-Vax Schools in the UK by Tim Hume (October 1, 2021) VICE News
  21. 21.0 21.1 Concern over extreme opinions (November 20, 2023) Totnes Times
  22. Darral PINCH Companies House
  23. Laraine Kathryn THOMPSON-PINCH Companies House
  24. QAnon's latest wild conspiracy theory claims Queen has no right to the throne by Michael Moran (October 15, 2020) Daily Star
  25. 25.0 25.1 by Mark Dowling (6 May 2022) The Standard
  26. Anti-vaccination protester jailed for contempt at Chester Crown Court by Mark Dowling (11 February 2022) The Standard
  27. Police make arrests as anti-vaxxers target Chester court buildings in protest by Gary Porter (14 January 2022) Cheshire Live
  28. 28.0 28.1 Comical courtroom exchange sees sheriff pledge to give Fife man ‘remedy’ he seeks by Craig Smith (28 January 2021) The Courier
  29. Magna Carta defence fails for Fife man convicted of driving offences by Craig Smith (4 February 2021) The Courier
  30. 30.0 30.1 Ingleby man says he's got a 'head full of common sense' to solve balcony planning wrangle by Samuel Jones (4 March 2020) Teesside Live
  31. 'It's not like I've built a skyscraper': Ingleby man's planning wrangle with council rumbles on by Samuel Jones (31 October 2020) Teesside Live
  32. Ingleby 'man on the land' who didn't consent to council's authority hit with court bill by Samuel Jones (24 January 2021) Teesside Live
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 Boxer who was jailed for not paying council tax stands by his decision by Katie Feehan (10 May 2017) Essex Echo
  34. Ollie PINNOCK Companies House
  35. 35.0 35.1 Pro Leigh boxer Ollie Pinnock sentenced to 25 days in jail for not paying council tax by Katie Feehan (5 May 2017) Essex Echo
  36. Tax dodger's freeman on the land defence fails (11 May 2017) BBC News
  37. This man tried to use an ancient legal loophole to avoid pl tax... but did it work? by Paying counciete Bainbridge (11 May 2017) Manchester Evening News