'Metric martyr' loses court battle

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The Independent Online

Britain's latest so­called metric martyr today lost his battle to sell fruit and vegetables in pounds and ounces.

Grocer Peter Collins, 51, from Sutton, Surrey, had claimed that Sutton Council had breached his commercial freedom of expression under the European Human Rights Act by trying to force him to sell in kilos.

He lost his case at Sutton Magistrates Court aimed at lifting a condition on his licence compelling him to sell his goods in metric measurements in line with European directives.

Costs of £13,000 were awarded to the council, which vowed to enforce payment.

After the ruling, Mr Collins, who has traded from the stall in Sutton High Street for 15 years, said that it was "very probable" that he would appeal.

He said: "It's not the local council I'm fighting, it's Brussels. The outcome of this case says that we do not make the law and if we do not abide by Brussels' rules then woe betide you.

"This ruling is effectively saying that I should teach the public the metric system and I do not see why I should do that.

"If my customers ask me for my goods in kilos I will serve them in kilos but they will be disappointed because they are being forced to change their way of life."

He had claimed that his largely working–class customers were not confident in kilos, but the court ruled that there had been no evidence of an "underlying demand" for an imperial system.

Trading standards officers had warned Mr Collins that he had to sell and

advertise his produce in kilos or face losing his licence.

The warning came after undercover officers bought a bunch of grapes from him in imperial weights.

Tony Northcott, head of health and trading standards at Sutton Council, said that they did not want to drive Mr Collins out of business but they had to enforce the law.

He said: "The last thing that the council wants to do is to put him out of business. We have been advising him and if he does not comply we will have to consider what action to take.

"What we really want is for Mr Collins to comply with the law. We want him to get on with his business so that we can get on with ours."

Michael Plumbe, chairman of the British Weights and Measures Association, said: "It is a perverse decision which is a complete negation of British justice. It is a bad day for British justice. We believe we have a strong case for appeal now."

The council had argued that using metric measurements will be compulsory by December 2009 and that confidence in the new system will grow as people get used to dealing in metric measurement.

Fiona Darroch, for Sutton Council, told the court: "The idea is to wean people off pounds and ounces and onto kilos."

In April Sunderland greengrocer Steve Thoburn, 36, became the first trader in Britain to be convicted for refusing to sell goods in metric measurements.

He is to appeal to the High Court, backed by a £195,000 fighting fund from campaigners who do not want to see imperial scrapped.

The fund aims to cover Mr Thoburn and other traders bringing legal action to try to keep imperial measurements.