Conscientious Census Objectors: Resistance is Fertile

Genny from No CONcensus has kindly allowed us to adapt a piece she wrote into a three-part blog piece. Firstly, the ideology behind census refusal.

It seems that many thousands of people in England and Wales have refused to complete the 2011 Census. Many refused after the world’s biggest arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin, operating under a UK flag of convenience, was awarded the £150 million contract to process Census data. Others objected to the Census per se, and to the element of compulsion enshrined in the 1920 Census Act.

Those protesting the involvement of Lockheed Martin point to its deadly business of making nuclear weapons, fighter jets, and cluster bombs amongst other lethal products. Campaigners have also raised concerns about Lockheed’s unhealthy obsession with global surveillance as the company holds prime position in the US Federal Contractor Misconduct database. Lockheed Martin holds contracts for the Census in both the US and Canada, where there is also resistance.

In Scotland, the Census contract was awarded to CACI, another arms company, fueling further resistance and refusal north of the border. CACI also implicated in human rights abuses and torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo detention centres. Overall, the government’s choice of contractors appears to have effectively compromised the accuracy of the 2011 Census since it has directly resulted in many of the refusals.

The individual has the right not to deal with an unethical company, in the same way as we have the right of conscientious objection to fighting in a war. Other refusers argue that compelling an individual to complete the Census compromises the fundamental human right to privacy, particularly when the security of the data supplied cannot be guaranteed.

A small percentage of the conscientious census objectors in England, Scotland and possibly Wales are now being prosecuted and brought to court- often many miles from their homes. To refuse to obey a government diktat on grounds of conscience and to risk prosecution for doing so are in themselves significant acts of resistance.

The sheer volume of refusals over the 2011 Census sends a clear message that it is not OK for the government to ignore ethical considerations and award lucrative contracts to arms companies.

Next week: the court process.

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Gyles Cooper: merchant banker, census refuser

I am a Londoner, aged 69, a retired chartered accountant and finance director, having earlier in my career spent 25 years in merchant banking. I studied German and French at Oxford University.

For more than 20 years I have been a supporter of the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and I served as the Campaign’s treasurer at a time when it was infiltrated on behalf of British Aerospace (now BAE Systems). Last year I refused to complete my census because of the involvement of an arms company –I am now being prosecuted because of my ethical objection.

I entirely support the census in principle; the questions asked caused me no concern. I fully believe that a government needs this information to assist with the formulation of policy. However, my opinion of the arms industry and of its business practices means that I cannot willingly co-operate with an organisation such as Lockheed Martin. They are the largest US weapons contractor and inter alia the manufacturer of cluster bombs and Trident nuclear missiles.

I appreciate the need to obtain the best value for money and to ensure that the contractor has the necessary technical competence. However, I believe that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) should also understand that an appointment which offends many people on ethical grounds and turns them into “census refuseniks” runs counter to their stated obligation to ensure that the census is as complete as possible.

The witness statement provided by the Chief Procurement Officer at the ONS claims that, “it is difficult to include ethics in any evaluation criteria because they are subjective to the individual,” and that any inclusion of ethical considerations would “defeat the two foundations of procurement: fairness and transparency. In effect, personal motivation would influence the outcome despite technical expertise or cost effectiveness and this simply must not be allowed.”

The clear consequence of such a stance is that no company capable of doing the job at a reasonable price can be ruled out, no matter how vile or criminal its record may be. It is disturbing to learn that the ONS and the government itself does not have its own ethical code and regards ethics as no more than a variety of opinions held by members of the public.

I find it incomprehensible, indeed shameful, that, out of all the organisations which presumably tendered for this work, the UK government should opt for companies such as Lockheed Martin for the England, Wales and Northern Ireland census, and CACI –a corporation whose employees were directly involved in the torture of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib- for the Scottish census. We are told that ethical considerations “simply must not be allowed” and as a result two companies from the American military industrial complex were engaged.

Many individuals cannot put their ethical views so lightly to one side and are now in effect being prosecuted for their beliefs.

Gyles Cooper
February 2012

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400 prosecuted for census refusal (press release)


Four hundred people (1) are being prosecuted for refusal to complete the 2011 census. Prosecutions are up ten times compared to 2001, when only 38 people were prosecuted.

The ten-fold increase in prosecutions is widely believed to be due to the census being run by Lockheed Martin UK, a subsidiary of the world?s largest arms manufacturer (2). Thousands of people deliberately did not complete the census due to the involvement of an arms company.

Around 120 have already been found guilty, with fines ranging from the hundreds to the maximum penalty of £1,000 already having been handed down.

Kat Hobbs from the census campaign group Count Me Out (3) said:

“Ten times more prosecutions than the last census shows that people are really angry about the involvement of an arms company. The Office of National Statistics can no longer deny that giving the census contract to Lockheed Martin was a mistake when so many people are being prosecuted as a result of it.”

John Voysey (4), an 82 year old Conscientious Objector from Herefordshire, who is facing prosecution said:

“The same reason why I registered as a Conscientious Objector in 1947 means that I cannot do the census if an arms company is involved. My objection to the arms trade is a deeply held religious belief and leaves me with no choice but the break the law. It is an outrage that Lockheed Martin was given the census contract and so many people were forced to choose between their conscience and breaking the law.”

Kat Hobbs added:

“It’s not just brave people like John who didn’t do the census – millions of people didn’t do it. A large proportion of the British public don’t want to have anything to do with Lockheed Martin and their dodgy arms deals. Their involvement has certainly made the census data less accurate.”


For further information and comment contact Count Me Out on 07858 998 508, email, or visit “Press” at


  1. Office of National Statistics Media Relations Office: Telephone: 0845 604 1858 (8:30am-5:30pm Weekdays), Emergency out of hours (limited service): 07867 906553, Email: For information on prosecutions and upcoming court dates:
  2. Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest arms manufacturer, producing F-16 fighter jets, cluster munitions, and the Trident nuclear missile system. Lockheed Martin UK, the subsidiary responsible for “data capture and information processing” in the census, is also a producer of missiles and other weapons systems.
  3. Count Me Out brought together individuals and groups to take action against the 2011 census and protest Lockheed Martin UK’s involvement.
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Hundreds being prosecuted for census non-compliance (plus court updates)


According to a recent article in The Friend, at least 400 are being prosecuted for failing to complete the 2011 census. We can safely assume that these won’t all be for conscientious refusal, but it is anecdotally a higher number than in previous censuses.

The story also mentions a worrying trend: summoning census resisters to courts not in their local area. One to watch.

Upcoming court dates:


Tue 17 Jan: Mandy Woods.
Bury St Edmunds Magistrates Court

A single mother who was summoned to a court 40 miles from her home.

Tue 17-Wed 18 Jan: Sarah Ledsom, Derek and Andy
Liverpool Magistrates Court. Solidarity vigil and demo outside from 9.30am both days, with the possibility to watch proceedings from 10am.

All are being prosecuted for refusing to complete the 2011 census and all have cited weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin’s involvement in the census data processing among their reasons for refusal.

See our blog post Photos and court case update from the 8th December to see the last time they were in court.

Thu 26 Jan: Barbara Dowling of Glasgow.
Court 16, Sheriff Court of Glasgow and Strathkelvin, PO BOX 23, 1 Carlton Place, Glasgow G5 9DA. (map)

In the words of, “Countless Scots have either failed to fill in their census forms or returned them partially completed or improved by critical comments, but have not been prosecuted. Barbara’s victimisation is inexplicable.”

Wed 1 Feb: John Voysey of Herefordshire
Wrexham Magistrates Court

John was a conscientious objector in 1947 and is now a conscientious census objector.

Thu 2 Feb (pre-trial): Deborah Glass Woodin
Reading Magistrates Court

Monday 14 May for her full hearing

Mon 6 Feb: John Marjoram

A long-standing peace activist, plans to plead not guilty.

Thu 9 Feb: Judith Sambrook
Mold Magistrates Court

Wrexham Magistrates Court on Thursday 8 March for the trial.

Fri 2 Mar: Roger Grenville, Vicky and the man known as Marcus Hoo
Birmingham Magistrates Court, at 10am.


Info from NoCONcensus, Indymedia, and EthicalCensus. See some extra info on some of the defendants in our other blog post.

Countless Scots have either failed to fill in their census forms or returned them partially completed or improved by critical comments, but have not been prosecuted. Barbara’s victimisation is inexplicable.

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Photos and court case update from the 8th December


A number of census refusers’ court hearings were dealt with outside Dale Street Magistrates Court in Liverpool, on Thursday 8th December.  At least three defendants pled not guilty, with their trials being set for 17th and 18th January, back at the Dale Street Magistrates Court. A number of people turned up outside the courtroom to show their support, including activists from Liverpool Occupy.

One of the defendants, Sarah Ledsom, posted a thank-you message on Indymedia, which we’ve reproduced here:

“I cannot thank you all enough for turning out yesterday, in the most appalling weather. I am so sorry for not being able to thank you all personally, but I was whisked off by the BBC for an interview which ended up being screened last night. It upset me, that by the time it was finished and went to the Unite cafe, that not everyone knew. We intended to get everyone a hot drink. One thing I do know, is that if you weren’t there with the banners and posters, the media wouldn’t have been interested. I’m new to all this, but I am learning. If you can identify yourselves with the pictures that Genny has posted, I would love to thank you personally. Yesterday, was the most humbled I have ever felt, and will remember it for ever, so thank you.

Sending each and every one a huge hug
Sarah ((((x))))”

The following report is reproduced from the Indymedia article of 9th December.


It was a wet and windy morning in Liverpool so all credit to the 20-odd people who turned up in spite of the weather to support Sarah Ledsom outside court, including people from Liverpool Occupy who were battling against the elements to stop their camp from blowing away that morning.

Dale Street Magistrates Court is on a busy junction and, once all the banners were up, we were very visible to both foot and vehicle traffic with lots of support from the drivers of passing cars, vans and buses. Banners pointed out Lockheed Martin’s track record as a company which profits from war and death, for example killing children in Palestine and making the nuclear weapons that threaten all life on earth. Hardly surprising, therefore, that people oppose its involvement in the Census.

We’d been told by a couple of journos the night before that Dale Street Magistrates court were saying that the case was to be heard at a different court about 5 minutes walk away. Sarah hadn’t been informed about this and would have struggled to walk between the courts in any case, so we turned up at Dale Street as planned, Sarah stayed outside with the demonstration until 5 to 10 and the hearing did in fact take place there. We haven’t got to the bottom of this bit of mis/disinformation.

There was a fair amount of media interest outside the court with BBC Radio Merseyside, Radio City, the Liverpool Echo, Granada TV and BBC TV turning up. Not sure how much of it translated into media reports, but BBC put 2 minutes on the evening regional TV news. Unfortunately, the media influenced the whole event as well as reporting on it. Walking in or out of the court for a second time so the cameraman could get his shots was a minor inconvenience. Being whisked away to Radio Merseyside studios so the interview with Sarah could be filmed under more conducive conditions and to give ‘variety’ or something meant that Sarah didn’t have time to talk with her supporters after the hearing, which was a real shame. At least it did make it onto the news – after over an hour spent getting there, setting up and filming, the reporter announced that there was every chance the story might be dropped from the list.

All that was later though…


Back inside the Magistrates Court at 10am, Sarah gave her name to the Usher and we ascertained that we could be waiting all morning as there was no running order. “Don’t worry,” said Sarah, “they’ll want our demonstration out of the way soonest. I don’t think we’ll be waiting long.” She was right. Ten minutes later she was called in, but not before we’d discovered another census refuser waiting for his case to be heard. We only had time to tell him Sarah was planning to plead not guilty and to hand him a flyer before it was Sarah’s turn. She answered ‘not guilty’ to the charge, the trial date was set for 17th January, there was a bit of a discussion about how long might be allocated to hear her case, with the District Judge suggesting that she would have ‘the rest of the morning’ after the first census refuser’s case had been heard (so that was another one), unconditional bail was given to 17th January and Sarah was free to leave.

As we left, we spoke for another minute with the census refuser we’d seen earlier; then he was called in. He decided to plead not guilty too and we caught up with him outside the court afterwards. His case had been adjourned to 18th January, indicating that the judge had allocated the whole rest of the day on the 17th to Sarah’s case.


It was raining fairly hard as we came out of the court and people were cold and wet, so the demonstration was abandoned and people went off to find places to dry off and warm up. Some of us, including Sarah, her husband and three other census defendants from around the country met up for a debrief in the Unite union building cafeteria at lunchtime before heading across the road afterwards to say thank you to Occupy Liverpool for their support. They were just taking delivery of sandbags as we arrived…


For more information about the campaign, contact NoCONcensus[at]

Next hearing that we’re aware of is Deborah Glass Woodin’s case (and possibly others) on Tuesday 13th December at 10am in Reading Magistrates Court.

Followed by Roger Grenville’s case in Birmingham Magistrates Court on 5th January.

To see more photos from the solidarity action on the day, check out the Indymedia article here.

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Ongoing court-cases for census refusers


A number of court-cases for census refusers are now underway. Below we publish a list of some of the defendants’ case details, shared with us by the NoCONcensus campaign group:

Thursday 8th December, 10am.

Liverpool Magistrates Court.

107 Dale Street. Liverpool L2 2JQ. (Nearest station Moorfields.)
Sarah Ledsom of Bromborough, Wirral.

This is the first hearing. See the call-out for the solidarity action on the 8th here.

Tuesday 13th December, 10am.

Reading Magistrates Court, Castle Street, Reading RG1 7TQ.

Deborah Glass Woodin of Oxford.

This is the first hearing.

Thursday 5th January, 10am.

Birmingham Magistrates Court, Victoria Law Courts, Corporation Street, Birmingham B4 6QA.

Roger Grenville of Leamington Spa.

This is the first hearing.

Tuesday 10th January, 10am.
Monday 16th January.

Sheriff Clerk’s Office, Sheriff Court of Glasgow and Strathkelvin, PO BOX 23, 1 Carlton Place, Glasgow G5 9DA. (map)

Barbara Dowling of Glasgow.

Tuesday’s hearing is an Intermediate Diet, so it will mainly be concerned with technical matters. Although it will be particularly important to have strong support for Barbara at the Trial Diet scheduled for the following week, support at the Intermediate Diet is also important and could help to make sure that the court takes Barbara’s case seriously.

More information: 07936432519 or 07786630764

Some more information about the defendants


Sarah Ledsom, 56, of Bromborough, Wirral, a grandmother who suffers with a disabling chronic condition, is due to appear at the Magistrates Court in Liverpool on Thursday 8th December. Sarah’s objections to completing the census relate to the contract with arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin for processing census data. Sarah refers in particular to the use by Israel of deadly Lockheed Martin weaponry on the people of Palestine.

My conscience will not, cannot condone what is happening to the good people of Palestine, innocent men, women and children being murdered by arms provided by Lockheed Martin to Israel. The very same Lockheed Martin who were given the contract to oversee the census 2011. On Thursday 8th of December I will be pleading not guilty as I will not be part of the collusion against Palestine. I will refuse to pay any fine and am more than prepared to go to prison. This is not about me; this is about the corruption and collusion going on between the UK/US/Israel against the innocent Palestinians and I am standing against it. Will you stand with me and all census resisters?

See the Indymedia post.


Deborah Glass Woodin of Oxford, green activist, mother of two and widow of Mike Woodin who was Leader of the Oxford City Council Green Group and Principal Spokesperson for the national Green Party, is due in Reading Magistrates Court on Tuesday 13th December at 10am.

Following a pattern with all cases we’ve seen so far, her case will not be heard at her local magistrates court, but at one miles away in Reading. Inconvenient for Deborah, but nicely situated for Aldermaston anti-nuclear activists! Lockheed Martin jointly runs Aldermaston AWE as well as having a £5.3 billion contract with the government to develop new illegal weapons of mass destruction there.

Deborah has given four reasons for her census refusal:

1) The link with Lockheed Martin (brought to my attention through printing a leaflet about it at Oxford Greenprint Workers Co-op of which I am a member)

2) The statement on the front of the form about using the information to help decide where schools and hospitals should be built: I wish this were true, but these decisions are driven by money, not need (as my time on both Councils has shown).

3) The number of questions not related in any way to anything but ‘big brother’ monitoring, e.g. religion, nationality.

4) The Census in this form is to be scrapped (Daily Telegraph, June 2010). It only ran this time because contracts had been signed and heavy losses would have been incurred. It is acknowledged to be a hugely inefficient way of collecting this data.”

She also says: “I was an active Green Party member for many years and have been a City and County Councillor for the Greens in Oxford. I have always been an activist and until recently believed that the best way to change the world was working with the system. I feel somewhat more cynical and less naive now!

See the Indymedia post.


Roger Grenville, 66, a former Local Government Officer and local Councillor from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, is in court in Birmingham on 5th January.

Roger Grenville: “I did state to the officer who initially visited me to chase up the form that I was not completing it because of the involvement of Lockheed Martin. When I was later interviewed under caution at home by two Enforcement Officers, I again repeated that I was refusing to complete this year’s Census on grounds of conscience because of the involvement of Lockheed Martin.

I have no intention of paying any fine or any costs. As a taxpayer I have already contributed to Lockheed Martin’s profits and it is not my intention to give them another penny. Perfectly happy to be given a custodial sentence in lieu of fine.

See the Indymedia post.


Countless Scots have either failed to fill in their census forms or returned them partially completed or improved by critical comments, but have not been prosecuted. Barbara’s victimisation is inexplicable.

Barbara will also be in court on 25 Jan over non-payment of a fine incurred for blockading Faslane nuclear submarine base. Barbara is refusing to pay the fine and risks a jail sentence: 10am 25th January, Dumbarton Sheriff Court – support in court welcome.

Other News

Some refusers’ cases have already gone to court. Indymedia hosts photos (2) of the solidarity action for Judith Sambrook’s court hearing on 11th November, as well as this more general post about the commencement of prosecutions against census boycotters.

Barbara Dowling will be appearing before Glasgow Sheriff Court on Tuesday 10 January, accused of failing to fully complete her census form. Please come along to the court to support Barbara. Justice is more likely to be done it is being watched.
Tuesday’s hearing is an Intermediate Diet, so it will mainly be concerned with technical matters. Although it will be particularly important to have strong support for Barbara at the Trial Diet scheduled for the following week, support at the Intermediate Diet is also important and could help to make sure that the court takes Barbara’s case seriously.
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Call out for solidarity action at census refuser’s court-case


Earlier this week Count Me Out received word from our friends at NoCONcensus about a number of upcoming court dates for census refusers. We’ve reproduced their call-out below.

CALL OUT for solidarity action at court for census refuser, Sarah Ledsom.

Let’s make this a big show of support bring your own and group campaign
banners and placards.

“All for one and one for all!”

DAY: This Thursday, 8th December
TIME: 9.30am
LOCATION: outside Liverpool Magistrates Court, 107 Dale St, L2 2JQ
(opposite side of road from council municipal offices, fly-over end of Dale

This is a protest against war and the big brother surveillance state, it’s
about opposing rewarding the world’s biggest (which overtook BAE as of 2009)
arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin with the £150 million pounds contract
(awarded by the Labour government in 2008) for processing the UK census.
Furthermore Lockheed-Martin are big in surveillance Lockheed Martin
Vice-President Lorraine Martin has said: “We want to know what’s going on 
anytime, anyplace on the planet.” Would you trust a company with such an
ambition with your confidential data?

There’s something sinister and ironic about us peace/anti-war protestors,
anti-nuclear, Palestinian supporters, anti-surveillance/anti-ID card
campaigners being legally forced, under threat of a £1,000 fine and possibily
prison if we refuse to pay the fine, to fill out the most personal of
information for it to be processed by the world’s biggest arms manufacturer.

Support already confirmed:

Merseyside CND,
Occupy Liverpool,
Wrecsam Peace and Justice Forum,
Nerve Magazine

The refusnik in court

Sarah Ledsom, 56, of Bromborough, Wirral, a grandmother who suffers with a
disabling chronic condition, is due to appear at the Magistrates Court in
Liverpool, 107 Dale St, L2 2JQ, on 8th December at 10am to answer a charge of
failing to complete the 2011 Census form. Sarah’s objections to completing
the census relate to Lockheed Martin’s contract to process census data given
the use of deadly Lockheed Martin weaponry by Israel on the people of
Palestine. Sarah plans to run a human rights defence in her case. There will
a demonstration and vigil outside the court from 9.30am. Please support this
if you possibly can. If you can’t be there in person, please consider
sending a message of solidarity to Sarah:

My conscience will not, cannot condone what is happening to the good people 
of Palestine, innocent men, women and children being murdered by arms 
provided by Lockheed Martin to Israel. The very same Lockheed Martin who 
were given the contract to oversee the census 2011. On Thursday 8th 
December I will be pleading not guilty as I will not be part of the 
collusion against Palestine. I will refuse to pay any fine and am more than 
prepared to go to prison. This is not about me; this is about the corruption 
and collusion going on between the UK/US/Israel against the innocent 
Palestinians and I am standing against it. Will you stand with me and all 
census resisters?” – Sarah Ledsom

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Demo and Vigil at census court case, Wrexham, 11/11/11

Judith Sambrook refused to complete her census form in protest at the involvement of weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin in processing census data. She has been charged and will appear at Wrexham Magistrates Court on 11th November at 10.30am, which happens to be Remembrance Day. Judith, a single parent from Shrewsbury who is on dialysis three days a week, plans to continue her resistance by refusing to pay any fine imposed and is prepared to go to prison if necessary.



  • against war, weapons manufacturers and the arms trade, and against Lockheed Martin in particular
  • in solidarity with Judith and all census refusers
  • to condemn the criminalisation of conscientious census objectors

As this is also Remembrance Day, we will hold a silent vigil at 11am at the war memorial, which is just 50 yards from the court.

Please join us for the morning if you possibly can. Contact us if you need accommodation the night before.


Address: Bodhyfryd, Wrexham LL12 7BP.

Transport: 5 minutes walk from bus station, 10 minutes walk from either train station. Car parking right outside, access from Chester Street (swimming pool car park). Direct train services from Chester, Deeside and the Wirral, North Wales coast, Shrewsbury and Birmingham. Wrexham is 12 miles from Chester, 30 miles from Liverpool and 40 miles from Shrewsbury.

FOR MORE INFORMATION or to arrange accommodation on the night of 10 November:  email: (Wrexham Peace & Justice Forum)

source: Indymedia

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Moving on, moving on (an update)

"We, advancing in the sun, sing DEATH TO ALL... every man..." - PJ HarveyGreetings all!

The campaign is progressing, despite our relative silence on here. The Census Non-Compliance officers are still doing the rounds, being threatening in some boroughs and really understanding in others.

It is getting closer to the time where legal action, if it happens, will become a reality. If you are threatened with legal action, please get in contact with us by emailing

Also, if you feel like updating us about the progress with your individual campaigns, then please join our email discussion list by emailing (a blank email will work fine).

Remember to keep the pressure up, column inches in papers are always a good idea…


The Count Me Out collective.

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Don’t be the one who forgets…

If your area is anything like ours, you will have noticed the Enforcement Officers start their rounds in the past week or two. Be sure to not be too mean to them, as they’re getting not getting paid much!

People have been sending us updates from their own actions against the census, and we thought we would pass some on. Here’s a video of Tracey from Toxteth’s making peace flower for Census HQ:


…and here’s a nice bit of subvertising from the Saint-Just Mob in Bristol:

Don't be the one who forgets THAT LOCKHEED MARTIN IS WATCHING YOU

We also got a snippet into the Financial Times a couple of weeks ago. Check out that, and all other media coverage we’ve had, on our Press page.

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