The Appeal by the
Metric Martyrs was heard between 20th-22nd November, 2001 at the Royal Courts
of Justice, Divisional Court, Strand, London. The Martyrs were appealing their
criminal convictions earlier this year for selling fresh food in pounds and
ounces. Around two hundred well-wishers gathered outside the court to give
|Left to right: Neil Herron,
Lynn Herron, Steven Thoburn, market research analyst Warwick Cairns, Peter
Collins, Julian Harman, Colin Hunt, BWMA press officer David Delaney, John
heart of their appeal was that the 1985 Weights and Measures Act was still in
force and gave equal legal status to metric and imperial measures in trade. The
opposing prosecution's argument was that that Act was amended by government
ministers using administrative orders in 1994, authorised by the European
Communities Act, in order to comply with EC directives that required metric
Court, Mr Michael Shrimpton, representing the five Metric Martyrs, said that
Parliament used express and clear words when passing the 1985 Weights and
Measures Act, allowing imperial units. In so doing, he said, it over-ruled the
1972 European Communities Act in the field of weights and measures.
court agreed early on that no British Act of Parliament had superiority over
any future Act of Parliament. Nevertheless, Miss Eleanor Sharpston QC,
representing the prosecuting local authorities, argued that the 1972 European
Communities Act was special, a new legal order; powerful enough to break the
fundamental constitutional rule that no Parliament could bind its successor;
exceptional enough to break the canon that, in a clash of legislation, the
later Act overrides the earlier Act; extraordinary enough to empower a minister
to overturn future primary legislation by means of secondary legislation.
Using case law, Mr Shrimpton demonstrated that it is not possible for
Parliament to give itself a power that can be projected into the future and
bind Parliaments yet to come. He argued that the 1972 European Communities Act
gave ministers no power to overturn any future Act of Parliament by means of
administrative orders, ie statutory instruments.
Court rejected, however, the contention that the abolition of the imperial
system of measures contravened the fundamental rights to free speech contained
in the Human Rights Act, October 2000. It said this is because traders were
still allowed to use imperial units as supplementary pricing indicators.
Nevertheless, the court acknowledged that in 2010, when use of supplementary
information is prohibited, there could be an appeal on these grounds.
two eminent judges, Lord Justice Laws, sitting with Mr Justice Crane, will
reserve their judgement for several weeks.
as hoped, the Metric Martyrs win their Appeal, Sunderland City Council will
almost certainly take the case to the House of Lords. A fresh legal fund will
be needed urgently to continue the fight. Donations can be make online or
through the post. Click
HERE for details.
|Some of the
world's press and TV present