"It would be impossible to carry out a census without the willing co-operation of the public" - The Scottish Government

Download, print and distribute our advice leaflet:
Census Dos and Donts (pdf document)

Don't Co-operate with the Census

The most effective way to register your objection to CACI's involvement with the census is by withholding your cooperation. Most forms of non-cooperation are perfectly legal. If practised widely enough, legal non-cooperation would make it difficult or impossible for the census to be carried out.

If you refuse to answer the census questions, or provide false information in response to them, you could be prosecuted and, if convicted, you could be fined a maximum of £1000 and acquire a criminal record. Convictions after previous censuses have been extremely rare (3 in Scotland in 2001) and fines have been well below the maximum. Prosecution of people who do not wish to be prosecuted and understand their rights would be very difficult indeed. A court would be extremely unlikely to convict anyone simply because the Register Office had no record of receiving their completed form. Prosecutions after Scotland's 2001 census relied on offenders providing statements admitting their offence.

We hope and expect that there will be no prosecutions at all after the 2011 census.

Whether or not you have filled in your census form or intend to fill it in, DON'T TELL CENSUS STAFF what you have done. This is a perfectly legal form of non-cooperation. It will make the census much harder to carry out and it will help protect people who don't fill in their census forms.

Census staff are just doing a job. Please be courteous towards them. Feel free to tell them about the links between the census, CACI and Abu Ghraib. If you wish, give them one of our flyers.

You and your census form

  • DON'T RUSH to complete and return your census form. There is no statutory limit to the amount of time you can take to fill it in.
  • DON'T TELL CENSUS WORKERS whether you have or have not received your census form, whether you have or have not filled it in or intend to fill it in, whether you are or are not the "householder."
  • DO REMOVE ALL IDENTIFYING INFORMATION from your census form if you intend to return it uncompleted (perhaps with a message saying why you are doing so). You must remove (cut out, don't just black out) the codes, address and Internet Questionaire Access Code from the front page (or just remove the front page) and remove the bar codes and alpha-numeric codes from the bottom of every page. Returning a blank census form is not by itself illegal. But if you don't eventually provide answers to the census questions, you may be committing an act of civil disobedience and, in the unlikely event of being detected, prosecuted and convicted, you could be fined and acquire a criminal record.
  • DO CONTINUE YOUR NON-COOPERATION even if you send in your census form (whether blank or filled in).

After Census Day - What to do

Follow-up will continue for many weeks after Census Day. The responses that we suggest are all completely legal.

  • Shortly after Census Day, census staff working on the "Census Coverage Survey" and the "Census Quality Survey" will call on selected households. This is a check on census coverage, not a check on whether you have completed your form. Don't tell them whether or not you have received a census form. Don't tell them anything about yourself or you neighbourhood. You aren't obliged to answer the door to them, but if you do speak to them you might wish to tell them that, in protest at CACI's involvement with the census, you are refusing to give any assistance to the census that you aren't legally required to give.'
  • If the Register Office believes that the information you provided on your census form was inaccurate or incomplete, census staff may visit you to check it. You are legally obliged to answer the questions on the census form fully and truthfully (except for the question on religion, which is optional), but you are not obliged to discuss your answers with census staff.
  • If the Register Office believes that you haven't returned your census form, you may get a visit from an enumerator. You aren't obliged to answer the door to them, but if you do, whether or not you have returned you form:

    DON'T confirm your name, or tell them the name of anyone else living at your address, or confirm that you are the "householder".
    DON'T say anything to confirm or deny their belief that you haven't returned your form.
    DON'T sign anything or agree to anything.
    DON'T complete you form in the presence of census staff

    Because of postal delays and errors by the Register Office, census staff are sure to make visits to some people who have in fact returned their forms.

    If appropriate, you could tell census staff that you have lost your form or that you didn't receive a form. In this case, make it clear that you don't wish to fill the form in online.

    Census staff may return on several occasions. Be courteous but firm with them. If they become intimidating or refuse to leave when asked, call the police.

  • If the Register Office believes that you haven't returned your census form, you may receve a reminder card as well as or instead of a visit from an enumerator. Whether or not you have returned your form, IGNORE THE CARD
  • If the Register Office believes that you haven't complied with the legal requirements of the census even after return visits from enumerators, you may be visited by members of the "non-compliance team." Respond to them in the same way as to enumerators. DON'T tell them anything that could assist them in carrying out the census.
  • If the Register Office persists in its belief that you haven't complied with the legal requirements of the census, the Registrar General may send you a warning letter.
  • If the Register Office believes that you still haven't complied with legal requirements following the Registrar General's letter, your case may be referred to the Procurator Fiscal for possible prosecution. Census staff will then try to arrange for you to attend an interview under caution. We strongly recommend that you consult a lawyer at this stage. The interview under caution will normally be conducted by staff working for the Register Office; the police will not normally be involved. You are entitled to have a lawyer in attendance at the interview; we strongly recommend that you do so. The interviewer will seek to obtain a signed statement from you admitting that you have refused to answer census questions or that you have answered them falsely or incompletely. Without such a statement it will be very hard for them to proceed with the prosecution. You are not obliged to say anything to the interviewer; we recommend that you say nothing (but you should be guided by the advice of your lawyer).

Cut-off Day

Data from census forms returned after 15 August 2011 won't be included in the census statistics, but will be included in the archive of census records, scheduled to be made public in 100 years time. So if you return you form after 15 August you will have scuppered the main purpose of the census, but you will nevertheless have complied with the law.

Prosecutions - how dare they?

We hope and expect that the Crown Office will decide that, in the special circumstances of the 2011 census, it is not in the public interest to prosecute people for failing to complete their census forms properly.

The Crown Office in June 29 declined to prosecute CACI for alleged war crimes, claiming lack of jurisdiction, despite the precedent established by the prosecution in 1991 of Lithuanian national Anton Gecas. It would be intolerable for the Crown Office to duck the prosecution of CACI, and then prosecute people for responding to CACI's record of abuse in the only way left open to them.

Ethical Census does not offer legal advice, and nothing on this page should be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice, consult a lawyer.

The information on this page is offered in good faith, but without any warranty, to help you make informed choices in response to the census. If in doubt, check with someone else. If you discover any errors, please let us know.