Merseyside Christian census rebel fined

A Christian who boycotted last year's census form because of its links with an arms firm has been fined £75.

Derek Shields, 57, from Wirral, said he objected to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) using Lockheed Martin as a technical consultant.

Liverpool magistrates convicted the unemployed motor mechanic of failing to comply with the census.

Shields, who was also ordered to pay £100 costs, said he would rather go to jail than pay his fine.

Wendy Scott, prosecuting, said Shields was visited on 28 June at his home in Patterson Street, Birkenhead, by two census non-compliance officers who asked if he had completed the form.

Ms Scott said Shields responded: "No, I'm not doing it, mate. It's all going to an arms firm."

He then shut the door, she said.

'Deep religious beliefs'

She told the court the purpose of the census was to "paint a picture" of the UK's population and how it is expected to change.

"The information on the census is very important for allocating financial resources, especially in these times when cuts are being made," she said.

Shields, who represented himself during the hour-long trial, told the magistrates: "I've only got one thing to say and that is I'm a Christian and I wouldn't get into bed with an arms dealer."

Giving their verdict, chairman of the bench Mary Wright said: "I have heard all the evidence and do understand you have deep religious beliefs and we have also heard about the part you play in the local community.

"However, we are here to enforce the law and every person in the country has to comply with the census."

She added: "You have not put forward a defence that changes that."

Shields told the court: "I'm not going to pay.

"If I pay that's admitting I've done something wrong and I don't believe I have done anything wrong."

'Value for money'

He was advised he has 28 days to "consider his position" and pay his first £5 weekly instalment.

Outside court, father-of-two Shields, who was supported by about seven members of the pressure group NoConCensus, said: "It would have been easier to complete the form but it is against my principles."

The case of fellow NoConCensus campaigner Sarah Ledsom, 56, a grandmother from Bromborough, Wirral, who was also due to stand trial charged with failing to complete her census form, was adjourned for legal reasons.

The ONS and Lockheed Martin declined to comment on the court cases.

But in a statement regarding the defence contractor's role, an ONS spokesman said: "The ONS is using a number of specialist companies to provide specific services for the census in England and Wales.

"The contract was awarded in August 2008 to Lockheed Martin UK in an open procurement contest, carried out under European law, and offered the best value for money."

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