21st Feb 2024

'Metric martyr' dies

Steve Thoburn, the British greengrocer who became famous when he refused to sell his goods in metric measurements, has died suddenly, at the age of 39.

Mr Thoburn collapsed and died at his home Sunday morning (14 March) after complaining of chest pains.

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Mr Thoburn became engaged in the Metric fight in 2000, when he was fined for selling a bunch of bananas in pounds and ounces from his market stall.

Refused to pay the fines

The 1985 Weights and Measures Act allowed goods to be sold in either metric or imperial measurements but compulsory metrication was later introduced by the British Government without the consent of Parliament - to implement a European Union Directive.

On 1 January 2000, it became a criminal offence in the EU to sell anything in imperial measures.

The five Metric Martyrs - Steven Thoburn, John Dove, Peter Colins, Julian Harman and Colin Hunt - each received a criminal conviction for not converting to metric measurements.

However, they refused to pay the fines as they felt they were not obliged to follow legislation not debated in the UK Parliament.

The battle has gone on for three years at the Courts with the European Court of Human Rights declaring the case inadmissible only a few weeks ago. The Strasbourg judges said they had not found any appearance of a violation of rights in the case.

A tomato or a small hippopotamus?

Mr Thoburn leaves a wife and three children.

He had in the past pointed out that the UK has still not gone metric since Prime Minister Tony Blair announced that his son Leo weighed 6lb 12oz and Chancellor Gordon Brown announced that his son John weighed 7lb 2oz at birth.

When Steven and Leigh Thoburn announced their son's weight as 3796 grammes "no one knew whether he was the size of a tomato or a small hippopotamus", claimed Mr Thoburn.

Mr Thoburn and the Metric Martyrs were awarded EU Campaigners of the Year in 2001 by the Brussels-based weekly newspaper, the European Voice.


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