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A man will stand trial next month after being apprehended taking some tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese from dustbins at the rear of a branch of Iceland’s.  It’s expected the man; freelance web designer was making himself a fried breakfast, and will dispute the actions taken against him, and that he was taking food because he needed to eat and doesn’t think he’s done anything unlawful or fraudulent in taking the food ordained for landfill from a skip.

The case will necessitate magistrates to examine the occurrence of skipping, taking disposed of supermarket garbage to cook and eat, and will high point the matter of how much supermarket food is disposed of, in spite of long operations to lessen the unwanted food.

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It will as well centre attention on a group of people taking fundamental steps to feed themselves as they strive with the rising cost of living in London.  The man accused, together with his partners in crime, all residents of a squat in north London, were apprehended on 25 October, just prior to midnight, after a member of the public phoned the police to inform them about three men climbing over a wall at the rear of Iceland in Kentish Town.

Obviously bystanders have nothing else better to do at that time of the night, other than to inform what is going on in their locality, when they would in likelihood be better off at home with a satisfying cup of cocoa and a hot water bottle.

Police apprehended the men as they left the district with a holdall and trolley comprising food.  The entire price of the things taken reportedly amounted to £33, and they were of low monetary value, being made up of tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and Mr Kipling cakes because evidently the thieves thought that they were “exceedingly good cakes”.

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At first the three men were arrested for burglary, and were charged under a dubious subdivision of the 1824 Vagrancy Act, after being found in a confined region, that is Iceland, for an illegal intention, namely thieving food.

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This particular statute was passed to handle particular difficulties that England and Wales confronted following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815.  Nine years after the end of antagonism with France, the British Army and British Navy had gone through a huge cutback in numbers.

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Discharged military staff, who had no jobs or housing, were living rough on the streets or in temporary camps, at the same time, a huge rush of economic migrants from Ireland and Scotland turned up in England, particularly in London, in a hunt for employment… Do you see a pattern materialising here?

Lawmakers became worried parish constables were becoming unproductive in restraint on the growing numbers of homeless and destitute urban poor, and punishment for the broad interpretation of vagrancy, comprising prostitution was up to one month hard labour.

Of course,  the 1824 Act was revised a number of times, most notably by the Vagrancy Act 1838, which instituted a number of new public order offences that were considered at the time to be likely to source moral disapproval.  It included the provision for the prosecution of each Person wilfully exposing view, in any Street, or public Place, any obscene Print, Picture, or other indecent Exhibition.

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The Vagrancy Act 1898 prohibited soliciting or begging for morally wrong grounds.  At first intentional as an action opposed to prostitution, in reality the law was almost only used to convict men of gay sexual intercourse.  The historical events of laws on panhandling and vagrancy is a long one and, many actions have been passed and have been continually revised, but the importance has always been laid on the prosecution of people whose way of life is begging and vagrancy.

The men challenged the charges and Iceland insisted it didn’t want the men to be prosecuted.  Plainly Iceland did not see it was in the public’s interest to see these men prosecuted, after all, is there anything wrong with taking food from containers that are intended for landfill?  We throw away food daily that could be given to non-profit organisations, or the homeless so that they can eat, but we opt to demolish it, rather than give it to somebody else in a less important situation.

What made me giggle even more is that the articles were given back to Iceland store, where they would have put it back into recycling containers and, then onto the landfill.   Nevertheless these men were held in a police cell for 19 hours prior to being set free because the Crown Prosecution Service perceived that it would be significant to the public interest in taking these three men to court, who was just attempting not to starve.

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Besides, what is the sin of taking, if it is going to landfill anyhow, and how is it harming anyone else, consequently of no interest to the public, except  the individual who snitched in the first place.

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