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Metric Martyrs High Court Appeal

Click HERE to go to Metric Martyrs.com

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 their support.

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 Dove.

The 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 measures.

Patron Edward Fox with Barrister Micheal Shrimpton and BWMA Director Vivian Linacre.

In 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.

The 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.

The 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.

The two eminent judges, Lord Justice Laws, sitting with Mr Justice Crane, will reserve their judgement for several weeks.

If, 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
From left: Neil Herron, Steve Thoburn, Peter Collins. From right: Helen Jefferson, Vivian Linacre, Edward Fox, Colin Hunt, Michael Shrimpton.
Support: Imperial trader Peter Ellis (left) with BWMA member John Colegate.
Representatives from Cornwall Trading Standards

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