Three men have been charged with taking discarded food from a skip behind Iceland in Kentish Town.
Paul May, Jason Chan and William James were arrested after climbing over a wall last October to take food totalling a whole £33. The food had been discarded by the supermarket.
According to the Guardian report, while the men were initially arrested for burglary, the actual charge was under a section of the 1824 Vagrancy Act (do have a read of that, it’s fascinating) “every person being found in or upon any dwelling house, warehouse, coach-house, stable, or outhouse, or in any inclosed yard, garden, or area, for any unlawful purpose”.
While the Crown Prosecution Service apparently feels that there is public interest in prosecuting three people for taking food that had been thrown away, we’re struggling to see what that could possibly be (and we aren’t the only ones). Perhaps the police should visit the men’s squat and confiscate their bedding too?
If nothing else, the impending court case will highlight the appalling waste of food thrown away by supermarkets at a time when increasing numbers of people are being forced to turn to food banks to survive. Taking food from skips, whether you want to call it ‘skipping’, being a ‘freegan’ or ‘urban foraging’, isn’t a new phenomenon. Charities have long campaigned against food waste by redistributing food destined for landfill.
And if you need anything else to demonstrate how stupid, pointless and vindictive this case really is, the police apparently returned the food to Iceland, presumably so the supermarket could throw it away again. Way to go.
Update: The BBC has reported that the CPS have now decided to drop the case on the basis that ‘a prosecution is not required in the public interest’.
Update: Iceland founder and CEO Malcolm Walker has said on Twitter that the supermarket did not call the police and is investigating why the CPS have decided to prosecute. Iceland have also issued a statement on the charges.
Photo by Che-burashka in the Londonist Flickr pool.