29 Jan 2012

Two Stroud campaigners 'picked' to face prosecution re census

John Marjoram
Of the 24.5 million census forms expected to be filled in, 1.6 million were not returned. The Guardian reports, which includes quotes from Stroud Mayor John Marjoram, says that at least 120 people have been convicted for failing to complete their 2011 census forms. Some may have forgotten to complete forms but others are conscientious objectors - for a long time there has been opposition to this census - see blog here - well many were brave enough locally to refuse to fill out the forms because of the involvement of the defence contractor Lockheed Martin UK, which won the £150m contract to run the census.

The extraordinary thing is that out of the hundreds of thousands who either refused or were not contacted only 369 have been summoned to appear in Court. From Stroud only two were chosen - despite a number of local Quakers who wrote saying why they would refuse. John Marjoram and Roger Franklin have clocked up over a hundred years opposing Weapons of mass destruction and Wars. You do wonder by what criteria the Crown Prosecution Service has chosen the people to face the legal process?

Roger and John will be in the Magistrates Court on the 8th Feb in Bristol. Another question is why not Stroud? Others being summoned also face long distances to court. So far there have been 157 prosecutions with 120 resulting in convictions; those found guilty face a maximum fine of £1,000 and a criminal record. The remaining 37 cases are classified as "conversions", where the defendant completed the census form at court.

John Marjoram, speaking to The Guardian said; "When I was 18 I refused to fire a rifle on military service. I couldn't live with myself if I collaborated with a military company. Just after Christmas two people knocked on the door. I was busy cooking lunch. They were very nice and pleasant and  understanding of where I was coming from, and the next thing was I got a summons."

Anti-census campaign group Count Me Out has said the number of prosecutions showed it had been a mistake to give the contract to Lockheed Martin UK, adding that this had made the census less accurate.

Update: see letters in Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jan/30/pacifists-and-the-census-form

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