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Thursday, 13 September, 2001, 22:26 GMT 23:26 UK
Vicar fined for census protest
Reverend John Papworth
Rev John Papworth tried to make a speech in court
A retired Wiltshire clergyman who refused to complete and return his census form has been fined 120.

Reverend John Papworth, 79, of Purton, Wiltshire admitted the offence when he appeared at Swindon Magistrates Court on Thursday

Mr Papworth, who believes the government has no right to the information, tried to defend his actions by addressing the court with a prepared 15-minute speech.

But the clerk of the court cut him short saying he could not mount a defence if he had pleaded guilty.

Mr Papworth claims the details gathered in census forms could be used by politicans and bureaucrats to undermine British sovereignty.

He told the BBC: "We are having to tell our children and grandchildren that this England which was once a conqueror has made a shameful conquest of itself and is now bound in with inky plots and rotten treaties."

Asked if he would fill in a census form in future he said: "I very much doubt it. We'll see, won't we."

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."

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.

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