Census objector granted leave to challenge Census Act

Dan Glaister writes in The Observer:

The government’s prosecution of census objectors is in jeopardy after a Birmingham man was granted a judicial review to challenge the legality of the act that makes it an offence not to complete the 10-yearly survey.

Privacy campaigner Nigel Simons, who did not fill out the census, argues that section 8 of the 1920 Census Act conflicts with his right to privacy guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

The granting of a judicial review comes days after two census objectors saw their prosecutions unexpectedly dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service. One of them, John Marjoram, who is mayor of the Cotswolds town of Stroud, said he thought the CPS had dropped his case rather than face the prospect of having the issues around privacy aired in a public trial.

“Given the pervasive culture of citizen surveillance and the erosion of individual liberties pursued by recent governments, it is no surprise to me that the CPS preferred to keep these issues under wraps.” he said.

According to the article:

The legal arguments focus on section 39 (4) (f) of the Statistics and Registration Services Act of 2007. The act prohibits the disclosure of personal information gathered for the census. However, section 4 (f) exempts disclosure that is made for criminal proceedings. Critically, the act does not specify whether the proceedings have to be in the UK.”Our argument is that the part of the act about data being shared is incompatible with Article 8, “said Birmingham Law Centre’s Michael Bates, who is representing Simons. “If that is the case, then the section of the Census Act that compels people to complete the census does so in a way that abuses their Article 8 rights. It is an abuse of process. Therefore anyone that has been convicted has been convicted unlawfully.”

A previous FOI request showed that the Office for National Statistics took very little interest in the impact of SRSA 39(4) on census confidentiality.