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rulerfadeRED.jpg (3463 bytes)METRIC MARTYRS 4

Steve Thoburn
Neil Herron
The City with STONES at heart
The Shrimpton Opinion


Street Trader deprived of a living

Peter Collins is a street trader in the London Borough of Sutton. He is a popular figure who has never been in trouble.

However, he has committed the cardinal sin of refusing to comply with the "compulsory" metrication regulations.

pounds pints ounces miles imperial British Weights and MeasuresThe way in which his local borough has handled his situation is quite beyond belief. Rather than face a head-on court case based on non-compliance with metrication (a case which they well know they are likely to lose) the unsubtle and un-civil servants of Sutton have opted instead to take away Mr Collins' living.

Peter Collins
Doing his work

Firstly they create a "crime" which does not exist and then they use this non-crime as an excuse to remove Mr Collins' trading licence, thereby making absolutely sure that a) there is no questioning the validity of "compulsory" metrication, and b) that the poor man cannot earn the funds required to fight the case.

On 20 March 2000 Mr Collins received a letter from the grandly (but rather oddly) titled Head of Health and Trading Standards, Mr Tony Northcott. In this letter Mr Northcott says:
"My reason for writing to you is to remind you that a condition of your street trading licence is that you comply with all fair trading and consumer protection laws. This includes the Weights and Measures Act 1985".

The 1985 Act expressly allows the use of Imperial measures!

Then on 4 July 2000 Mr Northcott writes:
"I have to inform you that there are grounds for the Council to consider refusing your application for renewal of your licence for the following reason that by virtue of Section 25(6)(b) of the [London Local Authorities Act 1990] you are on account of misconduct relating to trading standards legislation unsuitable to hold a licence" [our emphasis]

So there is the "crime" - the man is "unsuitable" because he is breaching trading standards regulations which themeselves are most likely unlawful.

Now here is the real problem.
Not only has the Health & Trading Standards Dept avoided controversial litigation, it has also avoided the cost. For the only way Mr Collins can get back his licence - and therefore his living - is to APPEAL against the council. This is a civil and not a criminal matter.

In other words Mr Collins is presumed guilty unless he can prove his innocence!

This matter is now so urgent that it could be heard in the local magistrates' courts at very short notice. As Mr Collins has no resources he might not be able to fight the matter without help from BWMA and that requires funds. Without resources the case may go by default. Mr Collins has no resources because the very people he wants to appeal against have taken away his livelihood!



Copyright 2001 PA News. 14 July 01

By Helen William, PA News

Britain's latest so-called metric martyr today lost his battle to sell fruit and vegetables in pounds and ounces.
Grocer Peter Collins, 51, from Sutton, Surrey, had claimed that Sutton Council had breached his commercial freedom of expression under the European Human Rights Act by trying to force him to sell in kilos. He lost his case at Sutton Magistrates Court aimed at lifting a condition on his licence compelling him to sell his goods in metric measurements in line with European directives. Costs of 13,000 were awarded to the council, which vowed to enforce payment.
After the ruling, Mr Collins, who has traded from the stall in Sutton High Street for 15 years, said that it was "very probable" that he would appeal. He said: "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. "If my customers ask me for my goods in kilos I will serve them in kilos but they will be disappointed because they are being forced to change their way of life."
He had claimed that his largely working-class customers were not confident in kilos, but the court ruled that there had been no evidence of an "underlying demand" for an imperial system. Trading standards officers had warned Mr Collins that he had to sell and advertise his produce in kilos or face losing his licence. The warning came after undercover officers bought a bunch of grapes from him in imperial weights. Tony Northcott, head of health and trading standards at Sutton Council, said that they did not want to drive Mr Collins out of business but they had to enforce the law. He said: "The last thing that the council wants to do is to put him out of business. We have been advising him and if he does not comply we will have to consider what action to take. "What we really want is for Mr Collins to comply with the law. We want him to get on with his business so that we can get on with ours."

Michael Plumbe (correct), chairman of the British Weights and Measures Association, said: "It is a perverse decision which is a complete negation of British justice. It is a bad day for British justice. We believe we have a strong case for appeal now." The council had argued that using metric measurements will be compulsory by December 2009 and that confidence in the new system will grow as people get used to dealing in metric measurement. Fiona Darroch, for Sutton Council, told the court: "The idea is to wean people off pounds and ounces and onto kilos." In April Sunderland greengrocer Steve Thoburn, 36, became the first trader in Britain to be convicted for refusing to sell goods in metric measurements. He is to appeal to the High Court, backed by a 195,000 fighting fund from campaigners who do not want to see imperial scrapped. The fund aims to cover Mr Thoburn and other traders bringing legal action to try to keep imperial measurements. Neil Herron, of the Metric Martyr Defence Fund, said that as long as market forces and principles were led by people wanting to buy goods in pounds and ounces then there was little that the courts could do to stop them. He said: "We are in a situation where you can prosecute this man for filling in pounds and ounces, but you can go out and drive in miles per hour and drink pints of beer. "They should only call for us stop selling in imperial when Tony Blair announces the weight of his next baby in metric and everyone understands the conversion. "They should stop picking on the little men who are just trying to make a living and educate the public properly about the metric system if they want them to use it."

 Steve Thoburn

Neil Herron's Letter

The City with STONES at Heart

Michael Shrimpton's Opinion


Design & Layout S-Print 2001. Text copyright of individual contributors