The legal bases for the Census of Population carried out in 1981, 1986 and 1991 were orders made under the Statistics Acts, 1926 and 1946. Section 7 (3) of the Statistics Act, 1926, provided for a fine not exceeding £20, or three months' imprisonment, or both, for failure or refusal to supply the information required on the census form.
The Central Statistics Office did not use its legal powers under section 7 (3) of the Statistics Act, 1926, in any of the three above-mentioned censuses. The majority of persons who originally did not complete a census form did so after the enumerator had patiently explained the importance of the census to them. In a very small number of cases where individuals were unable, as opposed to simply unwilling, to complete forms the relevant information was estimated by the enumerator.
The Statistics Act, 1993, and orders made thereunder now govern the taking of censuses and other surveys by the Central Statistics Office. Under section 44 of the Act, the penalties for non-compliance have now been increased to a maximum of £1,000. Based on indications to date, the Central Statistics Office expect the usually excellent levels of co-operation from the public in completing the census forms to continue in 1996. Recourse to prosecution will be determined based on the perceived threat that non-compliance will present to the integrity of the census.