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Thursday, 11 October, 2001, 14:40 GMT 15:40 UK
'Metric martyrs' haggle for review
Steven Thoburn, right with friend Neil Herron
The traders have all been prosecuted
Five market traders are fighting for their right to their own "cultural space", a judge has been told in the High Court battle of the "metric martyrs".

The group are arguing in a test case that they have the right to serve their customers in traditional imperial measures.

They are appealing against convictions and court orders made against them after they defied weights and measures inspectors and carried on trading in pounds.

Their cause is backed by celebrities, including Elaine Page, Patrick Moore, Lord Tebbit and Edward Fox.

Market trader Steven Thoburn (right) with fishmonger Neil Herron
Mr Thoburn (right) raised funds for the legal battle

Steven Thorburn, 37, a fruit-and-veg trader, was the first to be prosecuted after trading standards officers seized his scales in July 2000.

He was fined and given a six-month conditional discharge in April 2001 by Sunderland City Council for selling a pound of bananas from his stall in Southwick market.

John Dove, from Camelford in Cornwall, was ordered to pay court costs for refusing to change the way he sold mackerel.

Julian Harman, also from Camelford, was ordered to pay costs for selling Brussel sprouts by the pound.

Colin Hunt, of Hackney, East London, was given a 12-month conditional discharge for pricing pumpkins by the pound.

51-year-old Surrey grocer, Peter Collins, had his licence revoked by Sutton Council in July for selling in imperial measures.

Their lawyers argue that the 1985 Weights and Measures Act authorises them to continue using imperial measures.

But the lower courts and the prosecuting authorities say they are under a duty to use metric in line with European regulations.

'Constitutional importance'

The UK signed up to the European Comunities Act of 1972.

Mr Justice Scott Baker ordered that their appeals, expected to last up to five days, should begin on 19 November.

After being told of the wide public concern, the judge called for the biggest available courtroom in the Royal Courts of Justice in London to be set aside for the hearing.

He said: "I shall await with interest to see what happens."

Michael Shrimpton, appearing for four of the traders, told the judge the cases were of constitutional importance.

He added that it marked the first courtroom clash since the UK joined the European community between the sovereignty of Parliament and an EC directive.

He described the Euro restrictions as "an invasion of cultural space and a violation of the right to freedom of commercial speech".

He suggested that a policy of compulsory metrication might not comply with human rights law, and there was legal authority in both Canada and the US to support the challenge.

See also:

13 Jul 01 | UK
Grocer loses metric battle
31 Dec 99 | UK
Measure for measure
29 Dec 99 | UK
Shops weigh up changes
15 Jan 01 | UK
Grocer fights metric laws
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