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 Whistleblowers Need Protection


Metric martyrs singled out for 'harassment'

By Christopher Booker, Telegraph,
July 13, 2008

As part of his campaign to highlight the state's erosion of our liberties, David Davis - now again MP - visited Ridley Road market in Hackney, east London, to talk to Janet Devers, who runs a fruit and veg stall.

Next January she faces prosecution before a jury on 13 criminal charges arising from the shambles created by the laws which, under EU directives, imposed compulsory use of metric weights and measures.

Mrs Devers is the sister of her fellow-stallholder Colin Hunt, one of the five original Metric Martyrs, found guilty, by the Court of Appeal in 2002, of failing to sell goods in metric.

Mr Hunt originally tried to comply with the new laws, but this aroused such protests from his African and Caribbean customers that, like most of his fellow stallholders, he reverted to selling by the pound.

Hackney council was not pleased by the adverse publicity from his case and Mr Hunt has been prosecuted several times since for minor offences that are routinely committed by other traders without interference. When Hackney's trading standards officials last September seized two sets of imperial scales from Mrs Devers's stall, they thought it was owned by Mr Hunt.

Only the day before in Brussels, Günter Verheugen, a European Commission vice-president, had made a historic pronouncement that the British could continue to use non-metric measures indefinitely. He even attacked our press for having "erroneously printed stories" about "people having to buy their food from markets in kilograms rather than pounds".

Three things in particular promise to lift Mrs Devers's trial out of the ordinary. One is that it will be the first test case of Britain's metric laws since Mr Verheugen's statement that the EU had never intended its laws to be enforced in that way.

The second is that several charges against Mrs Devers relate to selling fruit and veg by the bowlful, without stating a weight. This practice, now near-universal in London's markets, was adopted after the new laws created such confusion over weights and measures in 2000.

If the court rules it illegal, thousands of traders across London will instantly be branded as criminals.

A third remarkable feature of her case, which has only lately come to light, is the evidence from former employees of Hackney council that, in recent years, senior council officials have singled out Mr Hunt, and now his sister, for special treatment amounting to what they describe as "harassment".

Former market inspectors pay tribute to Mr Hunt as "one of the lively characters in the market", "co-operative and compliant" and contributing to its "happy atmosphere". But they testify that senior officials have "directed market inspectors to pay particular attention" to him.

On Friday Mr Hunt again faces prosecution for "obstructing the highway" with crates used to hold produce, an "offence" which, when I recently visited the market, was being committed by many other traders, and most conspicuously by large bins bearing Hackney's own logo.

Neil Herron, director of the Metric Martyrs Defence Fund, who has been helping Mrs Devers mount her case, says: "Nowhere else in the country has a council singled out particular traders like this, breaching the fairness required under the local authority enforcement concordat."

When I discussed Mrs Devers's case with the new MP for Haltemprice and Howden, he seemed disposed to brush aside the metrication and EU aspects of her story. But if he really wishes to highlight the erosion of British liberties, he may have to be rather more forthright about the part played in this by our government in Brussels.

'Divide and fool' is Iran's plan

While our media have been preoccupied with faked pictures of rockets put out by Iran's sabre-rattling Revolutionary Guards, Tehran's equivalent of the Gestapo, there have been extraordinary developments behind the scenes, in the ongoing drama over the West's outlawing of Iran's main opposition movement, the only real hope of a democratic, secular alternative to that fundamentalist tyranny.

Last month the British Government was forced by the Lord Chief Justice and the Court of Appeal to remove the People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI) from its list of banned terrorist organisations.

Britain had only outlawed the PMOI, part of the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), in a bid to appease Tehran - even though the Revolutionary Guards themselves help to spread terror through the Middle East, from Lebanon and Gaza to Iraq and Afghanistan.

For the mullahs, the lifting of the ban was a serious defeat, since they used this proscription (which Britain persuaded the EU to copy) as evidence to the Iranian people that the West regarded their chief popular opposition as terrorists.

The PMOI is still banned by the EU, however, and Tehran has therefore gone into overdrive to ensure that ban remains.

Having lost Britain's support, Tehran has been focusing its efforts on the French government, which now holds the EU presidency.

Two weeks ago the NCRI staged a huge rally in Paris, attended by 70,000 Iranian exiles, supported by hundreds of MPs and Euro-MPs from across the EU, calling for the EU to follow Britain's lead.

But at a series of secret meetings involving the French foreign ministry and both countries' intelligence services, Tehran has prevailed on the French government to maintain the EU's ban.

With the EU's "foreign minister", Javier Solana, due to meet senior Iranian officials in Geneva next Saturday, to plead with Tehran yet again not to proceed with its nuclear weapons programme, it seems the EU is as bent on appeasement as ever.

This leaves our Government in an extraordinary position. Unless it can persuade the EU to change its mind, thanks to Britain's courts having explicitly ruled that the PMOI is not involved in terrorism, it is now in serious breach of EU law.

And this mess has all come about through a vain bid to appease a regime that, as our Foreign Office admits, has been responsible for killing British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Isn't it time that this scandalous and humiliating farce was noticed in other parts of the media, and not just this column?

A chilling tale from the North

There is nothing that true believers in global warming like to use more to sustain their faith than a fear that Arctic ice may soon vanish.

Google News last week showed 492 articles promoting this scare, after Arctic sea-ice had last September shrunk to its lowest level since satellite records began in 1979.

What the articles didn't tell us (although it can be seen from the Cryosphere Today website) is that ice-cover last winter rose back at a record rate.

Although it is again in summer retreat, there are now 700,000 square kilometres more ice than at this time last year. As global temperatures decline, the warmists may have to wait rather longer for that ice finally to melt away.

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