Daughter and friends of Sunderland Metric Martyr Steven Thoburn call for pardon as Government plans to reinstate imperial measurements

Geogia Thoburn, daughter of the Metric Martyr Steven Thoburn, has said the Government’s plans to reinstate imperial measurements “completely vindicates” the stand her father made 20 years ago.

Friday, 17th September 2021, 1:15 pm
Updated Friday, 17th September 2021, 5:11 pm
Steven Thoburn on his stall.

It was on April 9, 2001, that greengrocer Steven Thoburn, who has now sadly passed away, was convicted of two offences of breaching the Weights and Measures Act after a trial held at Sunderland Magistrates Court.

He was prosecuted for refusing to convert from traditional pounds and ounces to Euro-approved metric measures and became the first British trader to be prosecuted under regulations that came into effect on January 1 that year.

Steven strongly believed his customers should have the choice of whether their produce was measured in grams and kilograms or pounds and ounces.

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(Left to right) Neil Herron, Georgia Thoburn and Julian Harmann, a greengrocer from Cornwall.

Georgia, now 24 and studying to be a nurse, said: “My dad was just an ordinary market trader who became an extraordinary, reluctant hero. My mam was his rock and supported him all the way despite the initial concerns.

"Looking back over the press and media coverage at the time is now striking home how important the stand my Dad made was and how many people from all walks of life backed the campaign.

"This latest announcement by the Government is great news and completely vindicates my Dad and the Metric Martyrs’ campaign’s stand after all these years.”

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Steven Thoburn.

With Brexit Minister Lord Frost announcing a “change of law in due course”, Georgia now hopes it will also lead to clearing her father’s name along with the the four other convicted Metric Martyrs and has urged people to back her online petition.

Georgia said: “In 2001 my Dad was convicted of using imperial scales to sell bananas by the pound. The year previous, on 4th July 2000 he had three sets of imperial scales seized by Trading Standards Officers. He was threatened with arrest by the two Police Officers attending if he resisted.

“I have picked up the mantle and taken forward the call for the pardon to finally clear my Dad's name. This was also something my Mam was passionate about and keen to take forward but she tragically passed away in 2016 aged only 43.

"It is now time to see justice finally done and my Dad's name cleared along with the other four convicted Metric Martyrs. So I ask you to please support my petition to see justice finally prevail and for the Government, the UK Parliament and the Prime Minister support the call for a Royal Pardon for the Metric Martyrs.”

The news has also been welcomed by Neil Herron, 58, who was working as a fish monger in Southwick Market at the time of Steven’s prosecution.

Neil, who now runs a technology business, said: “Steven would feel completely vindicated by this decision. He always said he was doing it for his customers and standing up on their behalf.

"Steven’s stand was very symbolic as the directive to abolish imperial measurements was the first time many ordinary British people could actually see and understand the impact of EU regulations.

"This is vindication of our campaign and, with the change in law, there will hopefully now be a natural progression which will lead the way for Steven and the other Metric Martyrs to be officially pardoned.

"I would urge people to sign the online petition as the greater the weight of public opinion the better.”

News of the decision to reinstate imperial measurements has been welcomed by Lib Dem councillor for Grindon and Thorney Close, Paul Edgeworth, who has also backed the petition for Steven’s name to be cleared.

He said: “Businesses should be able to sell their products in whichever system of measurements their customers want, so I welcome the Government’s plan to give traders the freedom to sell in imperial measures if they so wish.

“It has always been ridiculous that Steve Thoburn was fined by Sunderland Council for selling bananas in pounds and ounces. Now that the Government seems to agree they should listen to campaigners and the Thoburn family, have the conviction disregarded and issue a posthumous pardon.”

Responding the planned change, a statement from Sunderland City Council said: “The UK is no longer a member of the European Union, the Government is continuing to review national legislation and we will continue to support residents and businesses on any changes that affect them.”

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