The following is a (slightly edited) letter written by John Marjoram about the Crown Prosecution Service dropping his case.
I have recently been informed by my legal advisers that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has dropped the case brought against me for refusing to complete the census form on the grounds that “There is not enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.”
This is peculiar given that the CPS was confident enough to bring the case to the Magistrates Court in February using taxpayer’s money justifying the prosecution on public interest grounds, and the evidence is the same now as it was then. The comments of the Court Clerk and the CPS (Bristol Post, 9/2/11) show the bullish attitude that was taken against me and the pressure put on me to plead Guilty.
The significant change, however, is that since the first court hearing, my Counsel Mr Tony Muman advised the CPS, by way of detailed note, the grounds upon which my defence would have been mounted, following consideration of which the CPS decided to discontinue my prosecution.
If the Crown and the Court had had their own way an innocent man would have been convicted of an ill-founded offence. I am now very concerned about many others who have been pressured by the CPS and Court to plead Guilty to similar offences including Mr Roger Franklin whose case also features in the same article. I call on them all to seek to re-open their convictions using the judicial process.
My refusal to complete the census form was based, principally, upon the following :
- Privacy and security concerns. This is a complex area but I was not convinced that Lockheed Martin, (a security and surveillance company and one of the world’s largest arms manufacturers) was obliged under its contract with the government to keep the data secret. This had been a requirement under previous census contracts.
- Grounds of conscience. I have spent decades in anti-war activities and the involvement of Lockheed Martin in this kind of civil exercise struck me as being morally repugnant.
As per the note, my legal team would have argued that my stance could be defended, and that articles 8 and 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights afforded me such a defence on the grounds of a citizen’s right to private life and or religious or conscientious belief. Other arguments about the compatibility of the current census regulations with EU law would also have been raised.
I am disappointed not to have been given the opportunity to give evidence in my defence and to ask some pertinent questions about why the case was brought against me in the first place. There are apparently some 750,000 instances of non-compliance, and only about 400 cases so far have been progressed by the CPS. The cases of which I am aware almost all involve Quakers and anti-war activists like me. I would have liked to have asked whether the CPS was deliberately ‘targeting’ this group and whether my feelings of having been victimised were misplaced.
I believe that the case had important ramifications. The very legitimacy of the government’s contract with Lockheed Martin and its future relations with this company would have been called into question as would the confidentiality of the data collected. Not least because Lockheed Martin continues to secure government contracts relating to the processing and management of data. Perhaps most importantly, a verdict in the case would have clarified the extent to which the citizen in a modern democracy can resist the will of the state on grounds of conscience. Given the pervasive culture of citizen surveillance and the erosion of individual liberties pursued by recent governments, it is no surprise to me that the CPS preferred to keep these issues under wraps.
Finally, can I just thank the hundreds of local people who supported my stand-especially local Quakers who wrote to the CPS saying that they refused to fill in the Census forms because of their religious beliefs.
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