Life could be about to get tougher for pedlars up and down the country.
A High Court judge suggested yesterday that those who call themselves “pedlars” but use motor vehicles to carry their wares from place to place may not be pedlars at all in the eyes of the law.
Mr Justice Mitting, sitting in London, stressed this was only his “opinion” after trawling through Victorian laws without the benefit of hearing in-depth legal argument.
But later, trading law experts predicted that, following the judge’s comments, the issue could soon come before the courts for a definitive judgment.
The judge was hearing an appeal by authorised pedlar Wayne Jones, from Bristol, who was found guilty by Bath magistrates in March 2010 of unlawful street trading.
It was Jones’s case that he did not need a street trading licence to sell umbrellas because he had a pedlar’s certificate granted to him by Gloucestershire police in June 2009.
But the law requires pedlars to sell their goods while moving from place to place, although they are permitted to “stop and speak, tidy, take stock, eat and have a drink”.
The judge heard the cost of a street trading licence was £6,360 per annum while a pedlar’s certificate was only £12.25 per annum.
He ruled the magistrates were entitled to convict Jones on evidence from licensing officers employed by Bath & North East Somerset Council that he had remained selling umbrellas in the same position for too long on December 21 2009 and was no longer covered by his pedlar’s certificate.
The judge said the officers had observed him trading from a spot next to Currys in Union Street for a period of 55 minutes and then a further period of 17 minutes shouting out loudly in drizzling rain: “Umbrellas £5, get your umbrellas!”
The judge upheld the lay justice’s decision to fine Jones, a father of four, £200 and also order him to pay another £200 in legal costs, plus a £15 victim surcharge.
Of wider concern to pedlars generally was the judge’s observation that, in his opinion, Jones fell outside the definition of pedlar in any event because he was using a car to transport his goods.
The judge stressed this was only his “opinion” at this stage, and his decision to uphold Jones’s conviction was not based on it.