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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
'Metric martyr' loses appeal
Steve Thoburn outside the High Court in London
Mr Thoburn was fined for selling bananas by the pound
The House of Lords has refused a Wearside trader leave to appeal against a legal ban on him selling produce in pounds and ounces.

Market trader Steve Thoburn, from Sunderland, was prosecuted by the city's trading standards department for selling bananas by the pound.

He is one of five so-called "metric martyrs" who are fighting European regulations forcing food traders to sell produce in metric measurements.

The group, which includes traders from London, Cornwall and Surrey, claimed the Brussels ruling could cause a deep 'constitutional crisis' in Britain.

'Outrageous decision'

It is now likely that leave to appeal in the cases of three others prosecuted for using imperial measures will also be refused.

After the hearing, Neil Herron, spokesman for the Metric Martyr Defence Fund, said that he thought the decision was "outrageous".

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

"I think this is the death of democracy in this country," he said.

"The next step is to take this to the European Court of Human Rights."

He said that he had contacted Mr Thorburn, who was not present during Monday's hearing, to tell him of the decision.

"He said he would continue to defy the law in accordance with British law in the use of imperial measures.

"And he hopes that the politicians will let mass murderers out of prison to make room for the honest, hard-working greengrocers who are the backbone of this country."

Regulations inconsistency

Monday's hearing was before Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Steyn and Lord Scott of Foscote.

Counsel for Mr Thoburn, Michael Shrimpton, argued that the 1985 Weights and Measures Act authorised traders to continue using imperial measures, even though the UK had signed up to the 1972 European Communities Act and became subject to European directives.

Mr Shrimpton challenged a High Court ruling from February, which said there was no inconsistency in the regulations.

"The 1985 Act says you can sell a pound of bananas and the 1972 Act says you cannot," he said.

"How can there be no inconsistency?"

However Eleanor Sharpston, counsel for Sunderland City Council, maintained there was no inconsistency.

The other traders involved in the case included fishmonger John Dove, of Camelford, Cornwall, who was ordered to pay costs for selling mackerel at 1.50 a pound.

100,000 cost

Another trader, Julian Harman, also of Camelford, was ordered to pay costs for selling brussels sprouts at 39p a pound.

In June last year, greengrocer Colin Hunt, of Hackney, east London, was given a 12 month conditional discharge for pricing pumpkins, sweet potato and other vegetables by the pound.

He was also ordered to pay 4,500.

The traders' legal battle has so far cost 100,000 which has been raised through the Metric Martyr Defence Fund from donations by the public.

See also:

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31 Dec 99 | UK
29 Dec 99 | UK
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