A man fined one penny for refusing to put personal information on an election form has said the landmark court case made a mockery of the authorities.
Ian Withers, 68, from Steeple Road, Antrim was left with a criminal record after refusing to give his National Insurance number for the Northern Ireland electoral register.
Mr Withers, a former police officer and private detective originally from London, said officials had used a hammer to crack a nut in the first case of its kind in the UK.
The episode sparked claims that the tight controls on proof of identity in Northern Ireland, first introduced to combat voter fraud, are now only serving to deter voters.
"They wanted to make an example of me," Mr Withers said.
"But it seems to me that they have used the sledgehammer and the nut approach.
"It is totally ridiculous. It is Big Brother stuff."
Mr Withers, who underwent surgery after suffering heart trouble in the run-up to the case, said he felt it was inappropriate that he be asked to surrender personal information, especially since voters in Britain do not face the same demands.
At Antrim Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday his defence solicitor Niall Small slammed the authorities for what he said was a heavy-handed approach and the court imposed a minimum fine of 1p.
In Northern Ireland anyone who wishes to vote must register individually, with household registration no longer allowed.
Since 2002 individuals must supply personal details, including National Insurance Number, on their registration forms and are then obliged to present photo ID when they actually vote.
Mr Withers’ solicitor Mr Small told the court: "There’s no legislation before parliament in England, Scotland or Wales for a case like this.
"But in Northern Ireland a man can be criminalised for failing to give a National Insurance number.
"He has been subjected to a horrendous affair at the hands of the state and has even been accused of electoral fraud."
Chief Electoral Officer Douglas Bain, who was called as a witness in the case, has declared his intention to refer 50 people who fail to supply information for registration to the police this year.
Mr Bain said he could not comment on individual cases, but confirmed he intends to continue referring cases to the police and said he had already succeeded in bringing thousands onto the voter register.
He said his priority was not prosecutions, but encouraging people to register and to provide the information they are then obliged to supply.
"I would much prefer if people lived up to their legal obligations," he said.
Prior to the case being heard, Mr Withers was wrongly cautioned in connection with voter fraud, though prosecutors confirmed that had been a mistake.
It is understood he was reluctant to hand over his personal National Insurance number because of fears of it falling into the wrong hands and because he argued it should not be necessary.
Sinn Fein Assembly member for the area Mitchel McLaughlin condemned the decision to convict Mr Withers and called on Mr Bain to reassess his approach to voter registration.
"It is widely accepted that there is very little electoral fraud here but at the same time it is widely known that there are thousands of people who have been taken off the register and denied their right to vote," said Mr McLaughlin.
"The fact that it is easier to register in Birmingham, Alabama than it is here should send out warning signals.
"All you need to do in Alabama to get on the register is fill in an electoral registration form and send it in.
"Here, even after filling in a registration form and providing significant personal information people are still been denied their place on the register."
Seamus Magee, who heads oversight body The Electoral Commission said: "In Northern Ireland we are committed to complete and accurate electoral registers and continue to encourage voter registration.
"Failure to provide information required for registration is an offence, so prosecution is an option open to Mr Bain, the Chief Electoral Officer.
"We will watch with interest whether the approach taken by the chief electoral officer in respect of prosecutions improves registration rates."
A spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service said the case was pursued in the normal way.
"The test for prosecution was met," they said. "Sentencing is a matter for the courts."