Like so many other people around the country, Sarah Ledsom didn't complete her Census because of Lockheed Martin's £150 million contract for processing Census data and the company's involvement with wars across the planet through its weapons manufacturing business.
Sarah was particularly concerned about the killing of children in Palestine with weapons made by Lockheed Martin (LM) such as F-16 fighter jets. In January 2009, during the 'Operation Cast Lead' bombardment of civilians in Gaza, activists broke into and destroyed equipment at the EDO/ITT factory in Brighton that makes parts for F-16 fighter jets used in the attack. In 2010, all were acquitted of conspiring to cause criminal damage: it was shown in court that their concerns were well-founded and ultimately the Jury accepted that they had lawful excuse to destroy equipment at the factory to try to prevent further civilian deaths.
THE REAL CRIME
Genny Bove of support network No Concensus and Wrexham Peace & Justice Forum said:
“Lockheed Martin profits from death and destruction through its corrupt arms business, often supplying weapons to both sides in a conflict. LM has a stated ambition to know everything that is going on everywhere on the planet at any time through its surveillance activities, something that should have really set alarm bells ringing for those considering awarding a data processing contract. The company also occupies the number 1 position on the US Federal Misconduct database.
“The real crime is that the British government awarded this contract to a wholly owned subsidiary of such a disreputable company as Lockheed Martin US. The good people who stood up for what they believe in and refused to go along with the Census in these circumstances deserve our respect and thanks, not to be persecuted through vengeful and pointless criminal prosecution at huge expense to the public purse.”
POINTS TO NOTE IN SARAH'S CASE
- The prosecution was instigated by the CPS outwith the six month time limit for summary offences such as the offence under the 1920 Census Act that Sarah is charged with.
- Sarah has been repeatedly refused legal aid on the 'interests of justice' test while many other Census defendants in similar situations have been awarded legal aid. Andrew Manifold has been awarded legal aid and is represented by Bindman's solicitors.
- As well as refusing legal aid, the court has manifestly failed to keep Sarah informed about the progress of her case, including the outcome of a court hearing she was unable to attend in person, and the dates of other hearings, orders made by the court and other important aspects of her case.
- The court joined Sarah's case with that of Andrew Manifold without her consent and failed to inform her of this decision.
- Sarah presented a detailed witness statement to the court that was registered and filed but which neither the District Judge nor the Prosecution had read prior to the last hearing. A skeleton argument produced by the prosecution related only to Andrew Manifold's defence.
- Although Sarah has informed the court from the outset about the reasonable adjustments she requires as a disabled person, these have not been properly addressed. She was informed by the District Judge at the last hearing that she should raise them during the next hearing, even though this hearing was scheduled to take place in a court without disabled access. Sarah has had to insist that the court addresses these matters prior to the hearing and the location has now been changed.
- Of well over a million failures to return completed census forms in England only a few hundred people have been prosecuted, while in Scotland there have been only five prosecutions from nearly 200,000 failures.
- Many refused to complete the Census on moral and ethical grounds because of the involvement of a wholly owned subsidiary of US arms manufacturers Lockheed Martin in England and Wales, and of a company complicit in torture, CACI Ltd, in Scotland. Both companies were awarded data processing contracts.
- The main issues raised by those objecting to the Census have been anti-war and/or privacy concerns as well as whether the Census is necessary as claimed.
- Questions have been asked about how the few people targeted for prosecution were selected from the hundreds of thousands of Census refusers. Those prosecuted have included the then Mayor of Stroud John Marjoram and veteran anti-nuclear campaigner Barbara Dowling in Glasgow, and the CPS appears to have disproportionately targeted those who are elderly, disabled, sick or have young children, many of whom have been expected to travel long distances to attend repeated court hearings at a few regional locations.
- Some cases have been dropped by the CPS, including those of John Marjoram, John Voysey and Judith Sambrook (although the latter revived her case and it was subsequently dismissed when the CPS didn't present any evidence against her). Others are being relentlessly pursued with some trials not scheduled until 2013, nearly two years after the Census date.
- At least one case, that of Jane Howarth in Devon, was pursued by the CPS through a series of hearings at huge public expense and great inconvenience to the defendant who has six young children, in spite of the fact that the statements of the prosecution's witnesses did not support the Crown's case against her. When it eventually came to trial scheduled for two days in August, the case was dismissed.
- There have been a number of instances where one member of a household has been targeted for prosecution even where two or more members declare their shared responsibility for the household.
More information about Census court cases:
Count Me Out: https://network23.org/countmeout/
Ethical Census: http://www.ethicalcensus.org.uk/