STROUD mayor John Marjoram and veteran peace activist Roger Franklin appeared at Bristol Magistrates’ Court this morning, Wednesday, charged with not filling in their census forms.

Franklin was proven to have committed the offence and fined £360 on top of costs, while Marjoram pleaded not guilty and will return to the court for trial on May 31.

The pair, who were supported in court by a gathering of friends, were given an opportunity to halt proceedings by completing the forms but they declined and maintained their opposition to the census, based on its links to US arms dealer Lockheed Martin which won the government contract to gather the data.

Franklin, aged 84, who has declared his Horsley home independent of British Sovereign rule, refused to enter a plea - leaving it to prosecutor Alison Harris to prove he had failed to complete his forms, which is a criminal offence under the Census Act 1920.

She read a statement from an Office of National Statistics (ONS) non-compliance officer, who visited Franklin on May 26 last year in an attempt to get him to complete the form, which he refused.

The bench was handed a six-page open letter Franklin had written outlining his ethical reasons for refusing to comply and warning he was ‘unlikely to co-operate with any penalties’ for doing so.

After considering the document the magistrates ruled that the evidence against him had been proven and he was fined £360 with £85 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

He was given 28 days to pay and warned he faces jail if he refused.

A not guilty plea was entered by Marjoram, aged 62, of Castle Street, Stroud, who had already submitted a letter to the court, detailing his reasons for rejecting the forms.

This outlined his moral objections to dealing with Lockheed Martin as a Quaker and suggested the Census Act conflicted with human rights legislation.

He also reiterated his suspicions that he and Franklin had been targeted for prosecution because of their high-profile anti-war stance.

However, Marjoram was advised that his points would not serve as an affective defence to the charge and was warned he faced significant costs if found guilty at a subsequent trial.

Despite this, Marjoram opted to maintain his not guilty plea and a trial date was set for 10am on May 31.