Skip to content or view screen version

Census case against Jane Howarth dismissed

No CONcensus | 26.09.2012 10:08 | 2011 Census Resistance | Repression

In August, the case against Jane Howarth by the Crown Prosecution Service on behalf of the Office for National Statistics over the 2011 Census was dismissed by District Judge Gray on the first day of a two day long trial at Exeter Magistrates Court after a number of pretrial hearings and adjournments in this case that had been ongoing since the beginning of the year. Evidence contained in the prosecution witness statements didn't support the summons and in court the witnesses lied as well as contradicting their own statements.


Jane's objections to the Census are explained in her witness statement:

“If I am a person within the property that has to give private information to a prescribed person... I would give numbers and age for a head count but anything else as I feel it is an instituted method of snooping on the population of England and conscientiously because of its history and potential to do more damage than good can not be party to it. I would give what is needed but not what is wanted.” [A fuller statement of Jane's objections is included at the end of this article].


Census cases have been brought at just a small number of courts across the country, resulting in expensive and arduous journeys for many defendants. In Jane's case, the first two hearings were at Plymouth, 64 miles from her home and a four hour return journey on poor roads. Jane has six young children and also cares for her mother. She was unable to get to the court for the first hearing at Plymouth, submitting her plea of not guilty in writing. She attended Plymouth for the second hearing, then a case management hearing at her local Barnstaple court and a pre-trial hearing at Exeter court 50 miles distant. Jane agreed that the trial itself could take place in Exeter since the hearing would otherwise have been postponed until 2013.


On the day of the trial, it became apparent to the Judge that the CPS had attempted to amend the original summons under less than honest circumstances to try to secure a conviction. A previous letter from the CPS about the proposed amendment had stated: "If you object to any amendments the summons can remain as it is." Jane did object and in the pre-trial hearing the summons was not amended in court. During this hearing, the CPS made strenuous efforts to persuade the Judge not to allow the timing of the summons to be an issue discussed at trial, even though it was clearly pertinent.

The CPS attempted to sneak the amendment through by writing to Jane's solicitor just days before the trial asserting that the change had been agreed. Although the trial was ultimately allowed to proceed under the amended summons [1], the prosecution failed to convince the Judge of its (amended) case as it was found that, contrary to the charge, Jane had in fact answered the questions asked of her by the Census Officers on 10 August 2012. Indeed, the written statements of the prosecution witnesses (census Non-Compliance Officers or NCOs) contained no evidence that Jane had failed to answer their questions.


Jane points out that an individual cannot generally be prosecuted for failing to answer questions of a police officer who calls at the house, but the Census Act and Census Regulations appear to give NCOs greater powers than the police in this regard.

NCOs following up non-return of census forms have been insisting that householders must answer their questions, threatening them with prosecution if they choose to exercise the generally accepted right to silence. Census officers invested with these and other investigatory powers are required to sign a statutory declaration that they will follow the Census (England) Regulations 2010 but an NCO in Jane's case, John Heil, testified not only that he had not read these regulations but also that he wasn't even aware of their existence.


The only question Jane did not answer was in April 2011, on the first NCO visit, when she refused to give her surname, but the CPS were out of time for prosecuting that failure, as they were for making a case over her refusal to complete the census form; this refusal was clearly recorded by the NCO who visited in April.

On reading the statements provided by the prosecution, Jane informed the CPS in a letter that if the case came to court the NCOs would end up looking bad and it would be shown that they were lying. The CPS persisted with the prosecution regardless, even though a simple review of the evidence should have alerted them to the fact that their own witnesses' statements didn't support the case against Jane. In court, as predicted, the Crown's witnesses were exposed: they contradicted each other, their witness statements were shown to be untrue and by their own admission had been written in collusion. One even gave evidence in court contradicting his own statement, which was in front of him at the time.

In her witness statement, Jane writes: “I feel that these two men’s statements are a defamation of my good character and are untrue accounts. I believe these accounts have been written in such away to encourage the Crown Prosecution to summons me. Saying I was aggressive and asking to be taken to court which both of these are untrue. I was the one who felt intimidated and bullied. I was a mother at teatime with six hungry children... The experience of the visit by Non Compliance Officers in August 2011 has left me upset that in this country that a person can be intimidated and coerced in their own home and then made false witness against and that untruth is what brings them to court.”


“The information that I am being prosecuted to give is already on data bases that the Government have access to. Everyone who lives at this property was born in the England so is recorded by their birth certificate giving a definitive bench mark to their existence. I gave my name & date of birth that day because I was coerced into doing so. I was at no time cautioned or informed that any thing I said would be used as evidence or that I had the right to legal advice or the right to silence. If I had known that I was being interviewed I would of gone into more detail covering the many issues with the Census 2011 but I was unaware that anything I said would be used in evidence against me. I made an official complaint about these men to the Office of National Statistics within 24 hours of their visit, hearing nothing until these men’s false statements are being used against me to bring me to court.”


An issue that wasn't addressed in court but has cropped up in several of the cases is the matter of who the responsible person is in a household and who is targeted for prosecution when there is clearly more than one householder. One of the cases brought in Birmingham was thrown out after the CPS failed to demonstrate that the person brought before the court was the person responsible for completing the census form. In the case of John Voysey, he made it very clear that his wife was the joint householder, jointly responsible for bills etc. and was also refusing to complete the Census. Only he was prosecuted and a strand of his defence was that he was being discriminated against on the grounds of sex. John's case was dropped by the CPS in May.

Jane shares the household with her husband and mother as joint householders. When the NCO visited, both the household make-up and Jane's husband's objection to the Census were made known to the officer but, as in other cases, the ONS and/or CPS seem wilfully unconcerned with the facts in framing their cases, apparently preferring to randomly target one individual in any household for prosecution.


Having missed the deadline (summary offence: 6 months) for issuing a summons for failure to complete the Census, the CPS wastes large amounts of public money prosecuting a case for refusal to answer a question, even though its own witnesses' statements show that there was no refusal on the date mentioned. It persists in continuing with the case at great expense to the public purse, ignoring warnings that the case is ill-founded. Someone should be asking questions about the use of public money for such pointless exercises, especially in this age of supposed austerity. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that regardless of the merits of individual cases, the CPS is intent on causing the maximum distress and inconvenience to those who have made a stand against the census and who are prepared to make a stand against their prosecutions. There needs to be some redress against such vexatious prosecutions for these victimless alleged crimes.

One final observation... The prosecutor at Jane's trial is reported to have been overheard saying “We are really not interested in these cases" which begs the question: who is interested in them then? Why have so many more cases been prosecuted this time around? Who's pulling the CPS strings behind the scenes and squandering vast sums of public money to boot?

Last word on the subject to Jane: “I have never filled in a census including 1991 and 2001. On both occasions being visited by census officers explaining that I disagreed with the census and did not get summoned either of those years. I have never hide from the census and believe my reasons for not filling it in are justified” and “This has been my third refusal and believe me I can say that this census the follow up has been very aggressive unlike the two censuses before and it has to be asked - is it because of Lockheed Martin's involvement?” [Arms manufacturers Lockheed Martin had a contract for the 2001 Census but it was very much smaller than the 2011 contract to process census data].


"The questions beyond a head count does not fulfil any need for public security, public safety or the economic well being of the country. The questions beyond a head count are not for prevention of disorder or crime or for the protection of health or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. The census is a 10 yearly act which is outdated by the time it is published, so only provides a snap shot unlike data bases that are annually updated such as the tax office who hold most of the information that is asked on the census and the answers not held by the tax office are in the council records. A snapshot every 10 years cannot be used on an annual bases for planning services and one has to remember that truthful answers are relied on but most of us know that objection is not shown just by refusal but not filling the census in truthfully which probably if not filling in the census is deemed criminal actually lying on the form is a worse crime as misleading. Do the Office of National Statistics really think an illegal immigrant is actually going to put that on a census form ?

"In 2007 the absolute confidentiality of personal information gathered for the census was no longer guaranteed by law in England and Wales in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, section 39 which thus gives easier access to private information for government bodies and with Lockheed Martins involvement through their subsidiary UK department it is unsure whether the USA Patriot Act could be enforced meaning intelligence being gathered by America from our Census 2011 is very much possible. Lockheed Martin assists more than a dozen American government agencies and is involved in surveillance and data processing for the CIA and FBI. It also has supplied private-contract interrogators to the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Using the Census for anything other than a statistical tool which is what we are told it is for is a breach of the Office of National Statistics contract with the governed of this country.

"The losses of personal data by British government and its civil servants have been enormous in recent years. There was no guarantee from government that criminals would be prevented from gaining access to the raw data. How can it when it will be available to police, the intelligence agencies, immigration authorities, the EU and to the private sector and academic “approved researchers”?

"The Office of National Statistics claim that the data is safe but in a world where data storage is only a step ahead of the hacker I feel this claim is incorrect and if amateur hackers can hack into the pentagon computers you feel it will only be a matter of time before we here of census data in the UK being hacked.

"Stagewatch, the civil liberties body that monitors the EU, has discovered that Brussels wants law enforcement agencies in member countries to build lists of political activists as part of a systematic data collection. I wonder if I now will make this list for my objection to the Census 2011 ?

"Civil servants in the member countries charged with this duty have been told to collate information on what the EU chooses to call “agents of radicalisation”. They have been sent a list of 70 questions to answer about each suspect. The extent of this EU trawl for potential political opponents was confirmed in The Guardian on the 8th June 2010.

"The census 2011, I believe will be used in this process, so I cannot be part of this breach of privacy and as for many who make the list of “agents of radicalisation“ they will be their wrongly and I believe if we go back to the Magna Carta 1215 it may actually be illegal for any census information of UK residence to be given to Brussels to assist governance of the UK. Thus my right to “Lawful rebellion” as the bill of rights forbids the recognition of power over what is now the UK by any “foreign person, prelate, state or potentate.”

"The Office of National Statistics will cite many useful functions for the census however history can show us all to readily its misuse and because of these misuses I also have a conscience’s objection to the census European Human Rights Article 9 Freedom of thought, conscience and religion... When I was at school we closely looked at World War 2 and it was there that I found out what the census could really do and be used for Genocide on a level hopefully we will never see again on this planet.

"A letter home from one of the 35 English soldiers who where the first to enter a concentration camp rather seals my fate of being summoned for refusal to fill in the census, one passage he wrote “On the day we entered the camp Bergen Belsen the things we saw we could not imagine, that what we thought was a civilised nation could be capable of such things.” That one line for me means I am bound by conscience to never fill in fully a census. This is a tool which has and can be used for such terrible atrocities and can cause division not cohesion of a population. The Census 2011 we see that lack of ethics and thought for peoples religion or conscience is disregarded by the contract with Lockheed Martin and justifies my ever standing refusal to not be subjugated in ever filling in a census. Lockheed Martin to most historians of modern history need little or no introduction, being one of or even the biggest arms maker and supplier in the world. They also are big in the surveillance technologies market. They sell the many ways to cause death and destruction basically making huge profits and make even more money out of humans' paranoia. To involve such a company in something that is compulsory beggars believe and thus only fuels my belief in my right to not fill in the census yet again in 2011.

"Germany have acknowledged their past and after public outcry when the government tried to pass a law to obtain more information from the census, it was challenged in court and found their Census law unconstitutional based upon a fundamental right to informational self-determination. We have no such protections in the UK for information given in the census leaving are information easily up for abuse. Making breaches of a persons privacy all to easy and show little regard for peoples freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Any legislation we have seen added to our census 1920 statute has been done so the census office can ask even more intrusive questions and access to the information is made easier.

"I also believe I have the right to freedom of expression European Human rights Article 10, which means I have the right to voice my objection to the census on my own premises and this should not be used to defame my character as I believe the census officers have in their statements.


[1] The amended summons read:

"On the 10th day of August 2011 at … being a prescribed person for the purposes of the Census (England) Regulations 2010 and being a person required by a census officer to give particulars prescribed by the Census (England) Order 2009 pursuant to Regulation 13(3) of the 2010 regulations refused to answer questions that would give the census officer such information as the census officer reasonably required for the performance of his duty under the regulations.
"Contrary to Section 8 (1) (d) Census Act 1920 and Regulation 14 (2) Census (England) Regulations 2010."
The original summons read:

"On 10/08/2011 at... having been required to provide an answer to a question, namely in schedule 2, in pursuance of a requirement made in a regulation, namely Census (England and Wales) Order 2009, made under the Census Act 1920 refused to answer the question.

"Contrary to section 8(1)(d) of the Census Act 1920."

No CONcensus
- e-mail: noconcensus _at_