Resistance is fertile #2: the court process

Genny from No Concensus has kindly allowed us to adapt a piece she wrote into a three-part blog piece. Last week was on why people refused; this week, it’s what goes on for the refuseniks that are taken to court.

Each census objector facing trial in the courts makes his or her own decision about how to deal with that situation. Not everyone wishes to continue their resistance through ‘not guilty’ pleas, entering on the possibility of high fines, costs, bailiffs and even a prison sentence for refusal to pay. Some people have opted to complete the Census at court so that the prosecution will be dropped.

Others are pleading guilty. Some of those who either plead guilty or are found guilty after a ‘not guilty’ plea may refuse to pay their fines. Some are actively contesting the charges against them and mounting a variety of defences with or without legal representation.

Whatever choices these resisters make during the legal process, we stand in solidarity with them all. Three solidarity networks are working alongside census refusers: No CONcensus and Count Me Out in England and Wales and Ethical Census in Scotland. These have been helping to publicise cases, offer information and support to those facing prosecution, attend court hearings and put census refusers in contact with one another.

Vigils and demonstrations outside the courts alongside issues raised eloquently by defendants inside are gaining widespread media coverage and shining a big, bright spotlight on the murky world of arms companies. The media and the public are increasingly concerned about the activities of Lockheed Martin and CACI, as well as the surveillance state and the insecurity of confidential data, government support for unethical corporations.

There are further concerns about the distance defendants are being required to travel to their hearings and the (mis)use of public funds to prosecute those who refuse to support such corporations. Is it really in the public interest to prosecute census refusers? Defendants and others have submitted numerous Freedom of Information requests in relation to various aspects of the 2011 Census and no doubt issues in relation to these responses will feature in defence arguments.

The prosecutions even looks like they might backfire on the Office for National Statistics, Crown Prosecution Service, and Lockheed Martin by ending in a public relations disaster for all three. It seems likely that the ONS will very much regret the appointment of arms companies to run the census.

Next week: the law on census refusal.

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