A woman running a vegetable stand in London’s West End is facing fines of up to $130,000 and the possible loss of her business because she was caught by the government selling her produce by the ounce and pound.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Janet Devers, 63, was notified of the criminal counts with a 67-page letter that arrived in the mail, outlining 13 criminal charges relating to the “improper” pricing of goods as well as the offense of selling vegetables in bowls.
“It’s disgusting,” she told the newspaper. “We have knifings. We have killings. And they’re taking me to court because I’m selling in pounds and ounces.”
That, of course, isn’t allowed under a European-Union-mandated rule that all its nations must use metric measures, so veggies have to be weighed in grams and kilograms.
But pounds, pints and miles are what Britishers know best, said Scott Lomax, another vegetable stall owner. “Who’s to tell us to change?”
Devers has entered a plea of not guilty to the charges, and says she’s confident of her case because it will be decided by a jury, which could include sympathetic shoppers, the newspaper reported.
When Britain wrote the EU-required law in 2000, it included an exemption that businesses could use imperial measures as well as metric weights, but the metric weights could not be omitted.
That, apparently, was Devers’ alleged offense, because two of her scales measured only in pounds and ounces, the report said.
Her trouble began in September when officials from the local government council and police officers came and seized her scales. The newspaper said they told her they were illegal.
Later came the 67-page charges.
Alan Laing, an official with the local government that is prosecuting Devers, said it is the government’s obligation to see that laws are upheld. He must make sure “traders comply with weights-and-measures legislation,” he said.
But Devers wouldn’t be the first to have been ticketed for such an offense. Four market-stall owners, including her brother, lost a 2002 case that was similar, the newspaper said.
They were told that there would be no further action if they didn’t break the law again, but a group is campaigning for them to be pardoned, and that group now has taken up Devers’ case, too.
It’s all about “who governs Britain,” campaigner Neil Herron told the newspaper.