Skip to content or view screen version

L'pool Census Refuser prosecutions. Sarah Ledsom – case dropped

No CONcensus | 18.10.2012 09:21 | 2011 Census Resistance | Anti-militarism | Repression | Liverpool

Last week, after a hearing during which Sarah handed over to the Judge and Prosecution a list of arguments for her case to be dropped the CPS wrote to inform her that the case would indeed be discontinued. None of these arguments included Sarah's health, although she did complain about disability discrimination - including the extra court hearings she'd had to attend because legal aid had been refused and which had caused her additional pain. The grounds cited by the CPS for dropping the case - “your significant ill health” - are significantly unconvincing and a more plausible explanation is that the CPS realised that to continue with the case would expose issues to do with the census they would rather keep out of the public domain, and that some of their more questionable behaviour might be revealed in open court. Read on...

Sarah outside inaccessible Victoria Street Magistrates Court, Liverpool
Sarah outside inaccessible Victoria Street Magistrates Court, Liverpool


Some Census refusers are now fending off bailiffs or having money forcibly extracted from their income. Those with ongoing cases have ongoing expenses and the possibility of future fines. Please scroll down to the bottom of this article for details of how you can support them.


indymedia census topic:


“I am writing to inform you that I have today sent a notice to the Justices’ Chief Executive, under section 23 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985, discontinuing the following charges against you.
“Refuse/Neglect to comply with or contravene S8 Census Act.
“The effect of this notice is that you no longer need to attend court in respect of this charge.
“The decision to discontinue these charges has been taken because I do not feel that it is in the public interest to continue to pursue this case against you given the recent developments. As you know, the trial was adjourned again when it came to court on 8 October. The case was re listed for trial which would involve you and the Crown witnesses attending court in November. It was clear to me upon meeting you that you are unwell and that you experience considerable difficulties travelling to court and accessing facilities at court. In those circumstances I feel that it is not in the public interest for you to be required to attend court again and I have therefore discontinued the case on the grounds of your significant ill health. “


The CPS has been well aware of Sarah's health condition since the first hearing but this concern for her well-being has only just materialised. Indeed, only last month (13 September) the CPS requested a hearing at less than 24 hours notice, in the full knowledge that Sarah has mobility issues and is a carer for her elderly father. This hearing was called for on the day the CPS and Judge received a fax from Sarah registering a formal complaint about the way her case was being dealt with. Sarah only found out about the short notice hearing through Andy Manifold's solicitors as neither the court nor the CPS informed her that the hearing had been requested and listed. This led to another complaint...

At a previous hearing, when Sarah was told that the trial would be held at Victoria Street court, a building without disabled access (staff on reception didn't even seem to know whether a portable ramp was available and we watched several disabled people struggle to access the building in the short time we were there), the CPS made no effort to support Sarah's request for an accessible venue and it was left to her to contact the court afterwards and insist that the trial should be held in an accessible court room.

Finally, the CPS in Liverpool has pressed on with another census prosecution also involving a defendant with significant ill health and disability. Andy Manifold, who is registered blind and disabled with emphysema has been shown no such consideration and his case concludes on Friday 19 October at 2pm when District Judge Shelby will give her verdict. Join supporters outside the court at Dale Street from 1pm.


Sarah writes:

“The following is what I handed to the judge and CPS in court on Monday 8 October and I am sure this is why they have dropped my case. I attended court on Monday for what was supposed to have been my trial, instead I had to argue the fact that I was not receiving a fair trial under Article 6 of the Human Rights Act.”


Reasons for dropping case

CPS were out of time in issuing me with a summons.

Have received no response from the CPS regarding my arguments.

CPS have not provided me with answers to questions.

Having no means of communication with the CPS other than telephone, this would leave me with no record of what was said. Fax I sent to them was not accepted on two consecutive days, leaving me with no option than to send it by post, even although a fax sent to them on 13 Sept was accepted and acknowledged.

I also asked the CPS for a copy of the alleged summons that was issued in July and the reasons for not following it up and why it has never been brought up before now.

I also asked if Ms scott was from the CCU (complex case unit) as this would be because it was deemed a complex case, thus a reason for allowing me legal representation. As it is Ms Scott is a senior prosecutor putting me at a disadvantage.

I also asked for a breakdown of all who were prosecuted for the census on Merseyside and the ethnicity. I know the ethnicity was collected as I am down as W1 on the refusal report.

I also asked for a response to the following... How many people did their census return before census day and up til May 2011 unaware of the system being far from 100% secure, considering the system wasn't accredited until May 2011?

“as a consequence for a period of approximately 4 weeks the DSP systems had held a subset of census data, prior to the award of accreditation.”
**This is the link that proves the ons did not get accreditation for their system until May 2011.**

I was consistently denied legal aid under the interest of justice heading although I passed the criteria financially, especially when many other judges around the country had no issue in passing the interest of justice criteria when using similar defences to mine. As a disabled person this has caused me to be treated less favourably than an able bodied person and has put me at a distinct disadvantage and caused me extra pain in having to attend hearings in Liverpool and having to travel by public transport from Wirral.

In my defence statement submitted in July 2012, I stated that depending on my condition, I have to use, either 1 or 2 walking sticks, crutches or wheelchair to get about. I would have thought this would have been a consideration in deciding the venue for the trial. Instead, I had to phone Victoria Street Magistrates court on Thursday this week to ask if they had disabled access, to be told no. I was then put through to Dale Street as requested and as I have been attending hearings in Dale Street already knew there was wheelchair access to the building and a lift to the floor where the courts are, but asked if there was a courtroom with wheelchair access. I was told they would get back to me, which they did to say that the trial would now take place in Dale Street, courtroom 3. I was assured there were disabled toilets on the ground floor. This is unacceptable in this day and age that disabled access can be denied to disabled defendants in a court.

I also asked for advice as to what I could do over not receiving the response from the CPS in time. I was told to bring it up in court on Monday. I asked if there was anything I could initiate that day to save me from having to go over on Monday such as an adjournment, but was told no I had to attend Monday.

I received a letter from Ms Scott dated 20 Sept, relating to the statements of the 2 non compliance officers,asking me “which part(s)of their statements of evidence you do not agree with. It may be possible to edit their statements with a view to avoiding their attendance in court.”
I find this rather questionable as this forms part of my evidence.

I have also had hearings organised without being informed by the court. I have not received directions from the court as to time-scales, or received outcome of hearings.

I had every intention of attending court today to lay my arguments before the court, but instead I'm having to argue the reasons I feel I am not being given a fair trial.


Sarah's formal complaints to CPS and the court about the way her case was dealt with have yet to receive a response.

There was something distinctly dodgy going on with a summons dated July 2011 that District Judge Shelby had found in Sarah's file at the hearing on 14 September. A summons in July would have brought the CPS within the six month limit for instigating proceedings from the April date when Sarah handed the census officers her written reasons for refusing to complete the Census. The only problem was that Sarah had never received that summons, nor had it ever been mentioned at any of the previous hearings and, most tellingly, it did not appear in the CPS' own chronology of events, dated August 2011.

Sarah had written a statement to the CPS and court outlining her Human Rights defence arguments, based on articles 6, 8, 9, 10 and 14 of the Convention, including her assertion that the discrimination she was being subjected to on grounds of disability was preventing her from having a fair trial.


At the previous hearing on 14 September, District Judge Shelby had said that she would be hearing both Andy Manifold's and Sarah's cases on 8 October, in the morning and afternoon respectively, the cases having been 'un-joined'. They had been joined at a previous hearing without Sarah's consent and the court didn't inform her that they had been joined, nor of the date of the trial that had been arranged in her absence.

When Sarah had asked about accessibility at the Victoria Street Court where the trial was listed, DJ Shelby commented that it was 'no better and no worse' than Dale Street court, also that Sarah had managed to access the court that day. DJ Shelby told Sarah she could raise this issue at the trial itself – assuming of course that she'd be able to get into the courtroom to do so!

The Judge had not been in the antiquated courtroom at the time Sarah had struggled down the steps with assistance. The court should have been well aware of Sarah's disabilities and should have organised that day's hearing and all others in an accessible courtroom. It had already been informed that Sarah was at times dependent on a wheelchair for mobility. One would have hoped that legally trained District Judges might be familiar with the provisions of the Equality Act.

Although the venue for Andy's case was moved from Victoria Street to Dale Street and into the same court room as Sarah's – who had requested the move for access reasons – DJ Shelby announced just before lunch that DJ Clancy would be hearing Sarah's case in the afternoon. No reason was given for this change, but it meant once again that the presiding judge was not familiar with the background to the case and hadn't read all the documentation.

He had read some though, such that when Sarah attempted to begin to present her arguments for the case to be thrown out, he announced:
“I can't throw the case out” (before hearing any of her arguments) and, incredibly, “I know more or less what you're going to say.”

It seems that the Judge had read Sarah's complaint and some of her other documentation, but certainly hadn't seen Sarah's detailed arguments for the case to be thrown out. When omniscient judges don't need to hear defendants' side of things, court hearings are pretty much redundant!

Undeterred, Sarah handed over copies of her document “Reasons for dropping the case” to the Judge and prosecutor - even if she wasn't going to be allowed to explain her reasons, no one would be able to argue later on that they weren't aware of them.

The DJ decided that in any event an adjournment would be necessary because the CPS had failed to provide either Sarah or the court with its skeleton argument as required. The prosecutor claimed to have personally posted these documents, but had no evidence of this and it seemed rather improbable that both letters would have gone astray.

Witnesses were eventually agreed after Sarah had to insist once again that the prosecution's witnesses should be present for her to cross-examine. The trial was re-scheduled for the afternoon of Friday 23 November and Judge Clancy said that he would be presiding over the hearing. So that was that.

However, just the next day, 9 October, the CPS wrote to Sarah to say they were discontinuing the case against her. At least this time they saw fit to tell her this directly rather than slipping the information to Andy's solicitors to pass on. Last time the CPS dropped a case against me, I was informed of the fact by a journalist...


It is commendable that so many people stood up not to be counted and refused to complete the census this time around. Only a tiny proportion of these people have been dragged through the courts. Some cases have been dropped, some are still going on. Some of those found guilty are resisting paying fines or having payments forcibly extracted from their incomes.

The crime is that the government saw fit to contract with a gang of US death merchants like Lockheed Martin in the first place, especially given their stated desire for full spectrum domination of information. It is also a crime that public money is being used to prosecute principled census resisters who have challenged this affront to decency.


Now that some people are being forced to pay fines against their will and others are facing the possibility of fines and costs, we'd like to invite anyone who agrees with the stand they have made to contribute to offset these expenses.

Loads of us didn't complete our census forms, or defaced them, or otherwise resisted.
If you didn't get prosecuted, please support someone who did!

Donations can be paid into the account of Wrexham Peace & Justice Forum.

Sort code: 07 00 93

Account number: 33333334

Reference: 0711/703676847

If you would like receipt of your donation to be acknowledged, please send an email detailing the date sent and amount paid to noconcensus [at]

No CONcensus
- e-mail: noconcensus _at_


Display the following comment

  1. Thank You — Sarah Ledsom