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Monday, 20 August, 2001, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Census form protest by vicar
Census form
Refusal to fill in a census form is an offence
A retired vicar may be prosecuted for refusing to complete and return his census form.

Reverend John Papworth of Purton, Wiltshire says the government has no right to the information.

He rejects assurances that the information will only be used for statistical purposes.

Mr Papworth claims the details could be used by politicans and bureaucrats to create a European superstate.

"I am prepared to go to prison to defend Britain's identity and independence," he said.

Census officials say the survey, held every 10 years, is a process of gathering information useful for planning issues and for shaping social and economic policy.

Prison sentence

David Marder, spokesman for the Office for National Statistics, said it had been made clear right from the start that it was a legal requirement to fill out the forms.

"It was also made clear that those who wilfully do not would be liable for prosecution."

Mr Papworth could be summoned to appear before a magistrates court if a prosecution proceeds on behalf of the Registrar General.

The penalty can be a fine of up to 1,000 or a prison sentence.

Following the last census in 1991 there were more than 300 prosecutions.

Mr Papworth is no stranger to controversy, having once sheltered a convicted Soviet spy.

On another occasion he suggested that shoplifting was a way of redistributing wealth.

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