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Appeal Proceedings and summary of Verdict

The verdict on the appeal by the Metric Martyrs over their criminal convictions for using lb/oz was delivered on February 18th, 2002 at the Royal Courts of Justice, London. After three months of deliberation, Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Crane ruled against the five traders and their legal representative, Michael Shrimpton.

Lord Justice Laws and Justice Crane entered the Court at 9.07am. Lord Justice Laws apologised for the judgement taking so long, saying that points had occurred to the Court that, had they proved good, would have assisted the defendants. Their Lordships had sought further submissions from the parties but, in the event, the points did not prove good. Lord Justice Laws said that for reasons given in the written judgement, the appeals were being dismissed.

There were three issues to be dealt with by the Court that morning: providing answers to questions raised in the case; matters of costs; and a further appeal to the House of Lords.

On the first point, the judges considered it wasteful to address every question raised in the case and decided to address the general point: were the metric regulations valid or not? For reasons given in the written judgement, they held that the regulations were valid.

On the matters of cost, Lord Justice Laws heard submissions from lawyers representing local authorities who argued that since the traders had chosed to appeal their convictions, they had exposed themselves to further costs. They said that local authorities had no choice but to apply the law and should not be expected to pay the bill. They further said that costs should be made against the Metric Martyr Defence Fund which existed to support the traders.

Michael Shrimpton, defending the traders, argued that there should be no order for costs against the traders for four reasons:

i) It was pertinent that each of the local authorities had chosen traders of limited means but not any of the supermarkets that broke metric regulations. Mr Shrimpton said that the local authorities had the opportunity to ensure equality of arms by proceeding against supermarkets but proceeded where there was no equality.

ii) The appeal had been of enormous constitutional importance and went beyond weights and measures. Mr Shrimpton said that it raised issues aurrounding the 1972 EC Act that should not have been left until 30 years after Britain had entered the EU; therefore, funding the case should be a matter for central government, not individuals or ratepayers.

iii) Costs should be assessed by reference to the defendant's means.

iv) Mr Shrimpton pointed out that the Appeal, while lost, had been successful on a number of the points that it had sought to argue; for instance, the 1985 Weights and Measures Act meant what it said when it permitted imperial units.

Lord Justice Laws remarked that the traders, "did not have to come here [the appeal court]". Mr Shrimpton said that the appeal process was an entitlement. However, the judges ruled against Mr Shrimpton and held that the defendents should pay the costs of the Appeal. These costs would not be reduced. They said that the defendents had proceeded to Appeal and were aware of the costs if unsuccessful.

On the final matter of appealing to the House of Lords, Lord Justice Laws said he would certify one question of public importance, namely, "Is the 1972 European Communities Act capable of being impliedly repealed by latter legislation?"

The Verdict

The appeals were dismissed for reasons that can be summarised as following:

Implied Repeal With respect to the arguments for implied repeal, the judges ruled that there was no inconsistency between Section 1 of the 1985 Act and Section 2(2) of the 1972 Act because there could be no inconsistency between a provision conferring a Henry VIII power to amend future legislation and the terms of that future legislation. In making provision for future amendment, Parliament was not binding its successors, since its successors could legislate as they chose in the face of the clause.

The judges also held that common law had come to recognise that there are certain acts that are constitutional. There was thus a "hierarchy" of Acts of Parliament, that is, ordinary statutes and constitutional statutes. While ordinary acts may be impliedly repealed, constitutional acts cannot and can only be repealed by express words. The 1972 EC Act was such a constitutional statute.

Henry VIII Clauses With regards to the defendants' arguments against the use of Henry VIII clauses, the judges was held that Section 2(4) of the EC Act clearly intended to give means of implementing a Directive by means of secondary legislation made under Section 2(2). The judges therefore held that the EC Act Section 2(2), read with Section 2(4), applied in the case of the metric regulations. The judges rejected references by the defendants to ministerial assurances given in 1972 as to the EC Act's limitations; the EC Act was sufficiently clear without need to refer to minister's statements.

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