Village grocer fined for fixing weighing scales

144919'1915 paper copy 'Picture by Neil Silk'05/12/14
144919'1915 paper copy 'Picture by Neil Silk'05/12/14

At Norton Police Court, before Sir James D Legard, chairman, Alderman Robert Metcalfe, Mr EW Tindall, and Mr James Sadler, Frank Calam, a Sherburn grocer, was summoned under the Weights and Measures Act for having in his possession an unjust scale on October 11th.

Mr T Latham, chief inspector of weights and measures for the East Riding, appeared to prosecute. Defendant pleaded guilty.

Mr Latham said the proceedings were taken under the Weights and Measures Act, 1878, and the maximum penalty for the offence with which defendant was charged was £5. The defendant carried on business at Sherburn in the East Riding, and he (prosecutor) called at his shop on the morning of Monday October 11th, when he found the scale (produced) with a small weight placed in such a position that every time the scale was used it would give a quarter of an ounce against the purchaser and in defendant’s favour. Any person asking for a small quantity of anything – say an ounce – would lose 25 per cent. The weight was placed in such a position that no one could see it. When he called defendant’s attention to it he replied that “he had put it there for a bit of fun”. On calling in defendant’s wife she stated in reply to an enquiry, that her husband “had put it on the scale the Saturday previous in the course of an argument with a customer as to weight and had not removed it again”.

Frank Calam said that on the Saturday evening previous to the prosecutor calling he had served a customer with some sweets, and as he had complained about short weight he (defendant) had demonstrated to the customer that he had received proper weight, and had then placed the weight in the scale just as found by the inspector in order to show the customer how he might be deceived as to the proper weight. The young man happened to be the last customer he had in the shop that night. He went into the house to have a cup of tea, and quite forgot to take the weight out of the scale again. He had not the slightest intention of defrauding, and the weight was placed there in what be regarded as a bit of fun.

The clerk to the magistrates (Mr Hugh W Pearson): But you ought to have pleaded not guilty.

Defendant: I pleaded guilty to the weight being found on the scale, but I did not put it there with any intent to defraud. The customer was quite satisfied that he got a good weight.

The customer was called to give evidence, and stated that defendant put the weight in the scale in his presence.

Witness said he did not think there was any customer after him, but he could not swear to that.

Defendant, in reply to a question, said he never weighed anything but sweets with the scale, which was tested last July and was perfectly correct. All his other goods came to him already weighed.

Mr Latham asked for the forfeiture of the weight, which, he said, was an established proceeding by the justice where a conviction was recorded. The bench, however, while deciding to inflict a fine of £2, declined to order the forfeiture of the weight.