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
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
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
Commissionís 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
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
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?"
Comments can be left on my
blog and donations can be made to the Metric