- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2002

LONDON England's "metric martyrs," five grocers who refused to sell bananas, pumpkins and sprouts in kilos and grams, didn't get an ounce of sympathy in court yesterday.

Two High Court judges ruled that the men do not have the right to sell exclusively in pounds and ounces a decision their supporters said marked the "death of democracy."

The traders were ordered to pay the legal costs of the prosecution, estimated to be about $145,000.

Lawyers for the five had argued that England and Wales should be exempt from European Union rules requiring fruit and vegetables to be labeled in grams and kilograms.

Judges Sir John Laws and Sir Peter Crane refused the men permission to appeal earlier penalties, and said European law ruled supreme.

Judge Laws told the defendants that "imperial measures, much loved of many, seem to face extinction."

The men's attorneys had argued that the 1985 Weights and Measures Act allowed them to use either metric or imperial measures in their shops and market stalls. But the judges agreed with earlier rulings that a European Union directive later adopted by Parliament requires loose goods to be sold in metric measures.

Customers may ask for goods any way they want, and produce can be labeled in both metric and imperial, but shopkeepers are required to sell in kilos and grams.

The traders' attorney, Michael Shrimpton, argued during a hearing in November that the case was of constitutional importance because it marked a showdown between British law and European rules.

The judges ruled yesterday that British law had lost.

"All the specific rights and obligations which EU law creates are by the European Communities Act incorporated into our domestic law and rank supreme," Judge Laws said.

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