More than 40 people
came in support of the traders, including Neil Herron of Metric Martyrs, Bruce
Robertson of BWMA and local UKIP members and officials. The regional, national
and international media were also present.
Robertson of BWMA greets local supporter
prior arrangement, the court case was set to last only one day, since no matter
what verdict was returned by the court, it would be reviewed at the court of
appeal later in the year. On this understanding, and with the court's
agreement, Mr Shrimpton presented only a skeleton argument in order to save
costs from what would otherwise amount to six days' legal argument.
case then proceeded on the basis that there was no dispute as to fact, only to
law. In other words, the traders did not deny that they sold granny smith
apples, brussels sprouts, mackerel and pollack in pounds and ounces. The
dispute revolved around whether or not this was lawful.
prosecuting council said that, under regulations, traders were required to
price and sell in metric. The prosecutor said (somewhat disingenuously) that
traders could use lb/oz so long as they also used metric. To roars of laughter
from the public gallery, he said that traders using lb/oz were engaging in
|In defence of the traders, Mr Shrimpton said that the traders were
entitled to use lb/oz since the use of such units had been authorised by the
1985 Weights and Measure Act. Mr Shrimpton said that courts were obliged to
follow Acts of Parliament, not the later wishes of ministers. In this case, the
minister had attempted to implement the EC's metric directive without changing
the 1985 Act. The minister's actions had therefore brought about a great
constitutional question: can Acts of Parliament be bypassed to implement EC
barrister Michael Shrimpton
the absence of the full six days of legal argument, the magistrates decided to
follow the ruling of Judge Morgan of Sunderland and convict the two traders. Mr
Dove and Mr Harman were each given a twelve-month conditional discharge and
ordered to pay £250 (reduced from a potential £2,250 each, due to
their good character).
After finding the traders guilty under the 1994 regulations, the
magistrate made the following comment: "
it is not within our remit to
decide the case politically". This remark was considered interesting by BWMA
observers since the case revolved around a legal question, not a political one,
that is, can secondary legislation override an earlier Act of Parliament? Under
the British constitution, obviously not, but it is remarkable how a
government's endorsement of such a notion can be so influencial that a court of
law describes ruling otherwise as "political".
|Trading Standards Officer Mr Phillips defends the prosecution to
court of appeal, combining all Metric Martyr cases (Harman, Dove, Thoburn, Hunt
and Collins) is set for November 19th-23rd, 2001.