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Sutton Trader threatened with loss of licence

In March 2000, Mr Peter Collins was the target of an undercover test purchase by trading standards officers. His offence was to sell grapes priced per pound. According to Mr Collins, "[the trading standards officer] came back, and said I'd sold them illegally in imperial measurements and that he was going to confiscate my scales. I told him he couldn't do that because they were my property. He said: 'The only way you can stop me is assault'. I picked up the scales and said: 'The only way you can take them is by assault.' He went away with a face like thunder. They then sent me two letters, the first saying I was still failing to obey the rules and another saying I was unfit to hold a licence because of my conduct."

Mr Collins, who has traded from his stall in Sutton High Street for fifteen years, was defended in court by Quinton Richards who argued that forcing Mr Collins to use kilograms breached his commercial freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Human Rights Act. Article 10 states everyone has the right to "impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers".

Mr Collins said after the court case that, "It's not the local council I'm fighting, it's Brussels. The outcome of this case says that we do not make the law and if we do not abide by Brussels' rules then woe betide you. This ruling is effectively saying that I should teach the public the metric system and I do not see why I should do that".

Mr Collins added: "A councillor said it's easy to purchase recalibrated scales, but that's rubbish. It would cost me £300 to buy recalibration sheets to replace the imperial measurements on my existing scales. But because my scales are pretty old, companies are a bit loath to help make these adjustments when they can just sell me some new scales. But I can't afford £400 or £500 for new electric scales. It might seem a ridiculously small sum to some people, but I've been struggling financially for 10 years…99 per cent of my customers prefer imperial. I can only remember one person ever asking for anything in metric. Customers keep wishing me good luck and telling me not to give in".

Sutton Council said that as metric measurements would be compulsory by December 2009, "the idea is to wean people off pounds and ounces and onto kilos". The council was awarded £13,000 costs and vowed to enforce the payment.

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