Aptly named, the Metric Martyrs were prepared to sacrifice their livelihoods to stand up for what they believed in in their own country – being allowed to sell goods in British weights and measures without mentioning the metric equivalent.
After having been hounded and harassed out of all proportion by the ‘authorities’ for their “crimes” of selling fruit, vegetables and fish by the pound, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said it was updating the advice given to councils to ensure that action against metric martyrs was “proportionate, consistent and in the public and consumer’s interest”.
Janet Devers, market trader and Metric Martyr, already faced with costs of £4,600 and possible future charges.
I wrote about the Metric Martyr Janet Devers in my article “Constipated by Regulation” as Fruit Police Strike Again in June. Despite no complaint by any member of the public, she had been charged with “using imperial scales to serve customers who asked for goods to be weighed in imperial measures” and “selling goods by the bowl to customers who saw the price and product and made a conscious decision to buy.” Both of these acts are criminal offences and Mrs Devers was convicted last week of selling fruit and vegetables using imperial measures and ordered to pay costs of £4,600.
This is despite the Vice President of the European Commission stating that it had never been the European Commission’s intention to ban imperial measures and that the use of pre-2000 weighing equipment was actually authorised by the European Directive.
September 13th 2007: two Hackney Trading Standards Officers, Russell Fielding and Audrey Lee seized Janet Devers’ scales (pre-2000!), assisted by Police Officers, including PC Andy Stafford.
Thanks to cases like this, Innovations Secretary John Denham is expected to introduce new guidelines “within months” to prevent local councils from taking traders to court.
Mrs Devers faces further charges in the New Year which will hopefully be dropped if the prosecution is deemed not to be in the public interest.
The Daily Mail set up a fighting fund to raise money for the cause which included a £110,000 haul in a single week.
As they reported today, “Now Innovations Secretary John Denham is attempting to stem public outrage by issuing guidance that will effectively make traders immune from prosecution.”
Neil Herron, director of the Metric Martyrs pressure group, hailed the “spectacular victory for people power”. He dedicated the triumph to the memory of his friend Steven Thoburn, the Sunderland greengrocer who died at the age of 39 as he fought a conviction for selling bananas by the pound.
Steve Thoburn, Metric Martyr, died suddenly in 2004, aged 39. He went to the grave a criminal…his crime was to sell a pound of bananas. The campaign will continue until that conviction is overturned or quashed.
Mr Herron said: ‘Finally we have a Government minister with an ounce of common sense’.
“It totally vindicates Steven and our stance on behalf of market traders and shopkeepers up and down the land.’ He added: ‘Who would have thought two guys from Sunderland would take on the might of the Government and the EU and win?”
For what it’s worth, I sell flags in yards, feet and inches and I have already publicly stated I will be keeping it that way, so I am especially grateful to the Martyrs. Some things are worth fighting for. If those who assume the role as an “authority” over us can stop us selling bananas by the pound, I reckon they can try anything to curb our freedom and way of life.
As Mr Herron says. “This isn’t about weights and measures. It’s about the determination of the state to impose its will on people, to show that it knows better. No one voted for metrication. There was no public demand for it. It’s never going to catch on. How many times have you heard anyone go into a shop and ask for a kilo of carrots? What sort of country have we become where it’s a crime to advertise a 6ft by 3ft bed?”