A benefactor has paid jailed council tax rebel Josephine Rooney's debt, officials said today.

The 69-year-old devout Christian was sent to prison by a district judge yesterday after she refused to stump up the ?798.97 she owed Derby City Council.

Background

Today, a council spokeswoman confirmed: "A third party has paid Josephine Rooney's council tax. We have accepted it."

The payment means Miss Rooney will be able to leave prison later today.

The spokeswoman added: "We know through the media that she did not want to pay but if someone comes to us with a payment, we are obliged to accept that.

"What it means is that she will be released from prison later today."

The news comes as her brother revealed his sister did not want someone else to pay the outstanding amount.

Miss Rooney said she was protesting about the state of her street in Derby, which she claims has been blighted by drug-taking, prostitution and disrepair.

Her brother, Father Liam Rooney, revealed newspapers had been inundated by offers from readers to pay her outstanding tax bill.

Council tax rebel Sylvia Hardy, 73, from Devon, spent two days of a seven-day sentence in prison last year after an anonymous benefactor stepped in to pay.

Father Rooney, who spoke to his sister by telephone last night, said: "The newspapers have been inundated with letters from people willing to pay.

"She says she will be very hurt if that was to happen because it would mean she's suffered all this and somebody is going to hand out the council a cheque.

"That sends out the wrong message. That would interfere with what she's trying to achieve."

Father Rooney spoke to his sister as she began her first day in jail.

According to court officials, she was set to serve her three-month sentence in New Hall women's prison, in Wakefield.

But she spent the night at Foston Hall closed female prison, in Derby, said Father Rooney today.

Speaking before the news of the benefactor, the priest, who was set to visit his sister in prison on Thursday, said: "She's fine. She says she is OK. She has found a friend who she has shared clothes with because I was not able to give her hers yesterday.

"She felt shock at how (the sentencing) was over and done with so quickly. She looked over to me and she was very resolute.

"I think she really succeeded in making the situation known. I think it has really made the authorities think that they have a case to answer."

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