Please come to Dale St Magistrates Court at 1pm on Friday 19 October to support Andy Manifold. Vigil outside the court from 1pm - 1.45pm.
District Judge Shelby will hand down her verdict with written reasons at 2pm.
Last time, the venue was changed at the last minute, so it is worth checking when you arrive that the case is actually being held at Dale St and hasn't been moved to Victoria St. (round the corner).
Report and photos from 8 October hearings:
Background to ongoing Liverpool cases:
ANDY MANIFOLD'S TRIAL
Andy Manifold's trial took place on the morning of Monday 8 October in front of District Judge Shelby. Andy had been awarded legal aid and was represented by Bindman's solicitors.
It appeared to have been conceded that this is not a 'strict liability' offence (ie Andy is not automatically guilty by virtue of having refused to complete the census) and the prosecution referred to the background to his refusal and his human rights (articles 8 and 9). The prosecution conceded that Lockheed Martin is an arms dealer based in the USA and that Andy had refused to complete the census because of his pacifist beliefs and because he considered it an infringement of his right to privacy.
However, it was argued, the government deemed it essential to gather this information, that any interference with Andy's human rights was necessary, and the government requires everyone to complete the census with the obligation underpinned by criminal sanctions to ensure compliance [comment: which it has patently failed to do].
The defence barrister then questioned Andy and established that he does not have paid employment, that he is registered blind and disabled with emphysema [comment: this information should be considered in the light of developments in Sarah Ledsom's case which will be covered in the next report: https://indymedia.org.uk/en/2012/10/501387.html].
Moving on to Andy's reasons for refusing the census, Andy had ample opportunity to explain his actions and he asserted that these had not caused harm or distress to anybody. Andy referred to Lockheed Martin's vulnerability to being hacked and its unethical business of arms manufacture. He also made reference to the British Constitution Group and his belief that the Queen is in breach of contract for signing the country into Europe and has “no right to ask anything of us”.
On Lockheed Martin, Andy said:
“I just can't bring myself to co-operate with a company that relies on war for profits. Whether it's a subsidiary or not [comment: LM UK is a wholly owned subsidiary of LM US], it is still the same company; it profits from death and destruction and oppression.
“They could have employed a British firm to collect census data – why give an American firm £150 million?
“The company exists for nothing other than creating destruction and death.
“They want to know everything that is going on in the world all the time.”
Andy also expressed his belief that the information supplied could end up in the hands of the US government or elsewhere either through being handed over by the company or as a result of computer hacking. He does not believe ONS assurances about the security of the data.
Andy referred to other census cases that have been dropped and all the people who refused to complete their census forms but have not been prosecuted. He pointed out that the census is no longer seen as the best way to collect information about the population and that the 2011 census is probably the last.
Under cross-examination, Andy had more opportunity to elaborate on his concerns about Lockheed Martin. The prosecutor concentrated on the fact that he had not refused to give personal information to the government to claim benefits and also tried to establish which of Andy's reasons for refusing to complete the census was paramount. Andy said that each of the reasons alone would have been sufficient for him to refuse the census.
The defence then elaborated on its case, based on its previously submitted skeleton argument. At one point Andy attempted to clarify something for his barrister and DJ Shelby interrupted sharply with “How it works is this – you have finished giving evidence.”
Andy's barrister made quite a lengthy submission including these points amongst others:
- Although it is not open to the court to make a 'declaration of compatibility' on human rights, convention rights must be taken into account by the court.
- No court to date has dismissed human rights arguments in census cases.
- Derek Sheilds' case was about religious belief. Andy's is about his pacifist beliefs.
- The Ali case http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/ali-v-cabinet-office.pdf focuses on census obligations in relation to the Data Protection Act and has limited relevance to this case.
- The Census Act was drafted 92 years ago and could not have anticipated the companies that would have been involved in the census in recent years. The legislation does not encompass present, modern day human rights.
- Andy's concerns about data leaks have been shown to be justified. Data Capture UK (which is jointly owned by EdExcel and Vangent and responsible for capturing and processing the census data under subcontract to Lockheed Martin) don't have good records in this regard.
- The obligation under the Patriot Act for US companies to surrender information to the US government is well known. This information is not safe.
- There is evidence of LM in US passing data to the US government and the ONS has acknowledged there may be problems and added additional contractual safeguards.
This demonstrates that the legislation itself is not safe.
- Andy knows that the UK subsidiary of LM could pass information to its US parent. This is not the same as information provided for benefits.
- Although census data is supposed to be confidential for 100 years, it could be used in court for instance, breaching that confidentiality.
- The case of X v UK is 30 years old, before we had the world wide web and social networking. We don't have control of our information in the way that we used to – the climate is very different. The argument about necessity has to be time specific.
- Andy has argued the census is no longer the best way to get the data. This opinion is shared by others, eg. David Cameron has said this census will be the last.
- The matter of proportionality has to be considered. The Telegraph reported that more than 1 in 20 households didn't return a form and the ONS has had to rely on a partial estimate for its statistics – ie the information is not complete in any case. Also, not all refusers have been prosecuted. The census should be applied equally.
- If the census is now inefficient, relies on estimates and ministerial confidence in it is incomplete, is it enough to warrant interference with beliefs under the Human Rights Act?
- Andy has acted on his beliefs. The prosecution has failed to present any derogations to the court to show that these exist. Andy's human rights have been infringed.
District Judge Shelby had not read the Ali case and said she would do so at that point. The court rose. When we were called back in, the DJ announced that she would be reserving judgment and would deliver this at 2pm on Friday 19 October, along with her written reasons.
SOLIDARITY WITH ANDY ON FRIDAY
Please come along and support Andy if you can. Vigil outside the court from 1pm.