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Wednesday, 1 May, 2002, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Metric rebel 'right to remove signs'
Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett is a UK Independence Party candidate
An anti-metric activist who removed road signs in metres and daubed others with paint told a court he wanted to stop the law from being broken.

Tony Bennett, a UK Independence Party (UKIP) candidate in this week's election, admits unbolting 29 signs and spraying others with black paint.

However he denies theft and criminal damage.

Sevenoaks Magistrates' Court heard Mr Bennett went to Kent on 1 July last year after a tip-off "illegal" metric roadworks signs were being used, near Tenterden.

False name

The 54-year-old, manager of the UKIP's "Guard the Yard" campaign, told the court he took matters into his own hands because the company involved, Transco, had used metric signs in the past.

"Within the first hour of being on the site, it was clear the metric signs were numerous," said Mr Bennett, of Harlow, Essex, where he is standing in the elections.

"This was the fourth incident where Transco had been guilty of using illegal signs in four years," he said.

"I formed the view the only effective way of getting something done...was to remove any illegality."

Previous case

The court heard Mr Bennett was questioned by a Transco worker while removing the signs and gave a false name and claimed to be a road traffic manager.

Mr Bennett said he had gained confidence to remove the signs after he was arrested for spraying a metric sign near Stansted airport in Essex.

The British Airport Authority dropped the case, leading him to believe he would not be prosecuted for removing signs.

Mr Bennett's defence claims traffic regulations in 1994 state distance signs must only be in miles and yards.

'Lesson taught'

However, the prosecution state Mr Bennett was acting illegally by removing the signs and spraying them.

Mr Bennett said: "Covering over an illegality can scarcely be treated as a criminal act.

If all you do is cover over the illegality, how can that be criminal damage?"

The court heard Mr Bennett put the signs in four ditches before writing to Transco telling them he would return them if they promised not to use them "illegally on British roads".

"I thought it would teach them a lesson and it jolly well did," said Mr Bennett.

The case was adjourned until 22 May.

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See also:

01 Mar 02 | England
'Metric martyrs' appeal to Lords
18 Feb 02 | England
'Metric martyrs' lose court battle
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