Friday 11 February 2011

Tesco, The Police, And Trevelyan's Corn

A woman was handcuffed and 'treated like a hardened criminal' after she helped herself to food worth £200 that had been thrown away by a Tesco store following a power cut.

But she was stunned when police arrived at her home and arrested her for suspected 'theft by finding' and took her to the station in handcuffs.
Now, I realise the details are sketchy, that Tesco still technically owned the food and that the police had no choice but to act if the business complained. But ... I'm pretty sure that Tesco would have almost certainly been unable to sell the stuff, and that their concern was not so much one of theft as the fear of prosecution under environmental health regulations or litigation should someone become ill.

So what we have here is a business throwing out useless stock, and the consequences of state legislation forcing them to refuse its consumption by someone who was quite willing to take their chances. Rules is rules and government knows best yadda, yadda, yadda. The result of course being a right old mess and piss poor PR for the state's enforcers.

While reading the article though, I was minded of the Irish anthem The Fields of Athenry.

For you stole Trevelyan's corn
So the young might see the morn
Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay
The Trevelyan referred to being quite a nasty piece of work whose main contribution to the Irish famine was to make it a lot worse including - relevantly for this story - denying starved 19th century Irish the relief of commodities which were only going to be ditched anyway.

The song tells the story of Lord Trevelyan who brought a supply of corn back from America in a bid to battle starvation during the potato famine in the mid-nineteenth century. Unfortunately it was Indian corn too hard to be milled, so useless. However, local people thought it would save them and so broke into the stores, were arrested, and subsequently deported to Australia.
Trevelyan's memory to this day is still reviled in Ireland, and his immortalisation in song has continued to whip up anti-English sentiment for four decades or so. Likewise, the reputation of Essex Police isn't exactly going to be enhanced in light of such a case, is it?

Especially since Sasha Hall, the woman arrested in this instance, was merely doing exactly as we were ordered to do by politicians recently.

On the bright side, there are now just a few more people who may be waking up to the fact that big government is hypocritical, doesn't do things very well and - for our own good - often makes life stupidly more difficult.

The more, the merrier.


Anonymous said...

That's because they are stupid.
Career politicians most of em.
Living in a bubble.
Like the Bourbons.

She put's down her knitting and cheers !

Anonymous said...

Isn't the legal defence in cases like this, "Abandonment"?
Or has that been done away with now.


Cazzy Jones said...

Hi - just given you a link, my own posting is here.

Taking their assumptions to their logical conclusions, would the police really have expected £3K worth of decaying food to be brought to the station for 3 months' worth of safekeeping under the theft by finding principles that they have relied upon to charge this person?

Anonymous said...

The woman could not have not have reasonably thought that the food still "belonged" to Tesco. She won't be found guilty of any crime. This seems like very bad PR for Tesco. Most people would equate the situation to finding a coffee table in a skip: doing a favour by emptying the skip a little and reducing the amount of rubbish sent to the tip.

PT Barnum said...

"Theft by finding"? How old is that piece of legislation? And what does it actually mean? Would it cover the fiver you found in the street, since you knew it wasn't yours but you could hardly return it to its owner unless you saw them drop it?

Nice nod to that lovely biting song, btw.

Anonymous said...

Off topic but ...

Smoke hater warning...

"The obstacles are so massive" are they? Not massive enough in my opinion. Smoking should be banned completely from all public places.
Next time you have that morning fag while on your walk to work; think of the poor sods who you pass while you blow your horrible smoke in their faces.

Anonymous said...

Fucking hell! I don't know what else to say bar this:

It says a lot for this country when people are digging in bins for food, whilst our so called "Masters" sit in their ivory towers.

I know that's not the point here really...


SadButMadLad said...

@PT Barnum - If you found a fiver then there is no way of finding the owner so you can keep it (unless the owner kept the serial numbers!). If you found a wallet, then you are expected to take it to a police station, report it, wait a few weeks and collect it, because more than likely the person who lost it wouldn't expect to have it handed in.

Apocryphal story: Some bright young spark went and reported that their non-existant bike was stolen. He gave a very good description (based on an Argos catalogue) that the police matched it up with one already handed in some time ago. He walked away from the police station up one free bike.

Anonymous said...

*Apocryphal story: Some bright young spark went and reported that their non-existant bike was stolen. He gave a very good description (based on an Argos catalogue) that the police matched it up with one already handed in some time ago. He walked away from the police station up one free bike.*

Bikes have frame numbers, sounds abit iffy to me.

James Higham said...

Perhaps Trevelyan was the model for Tesco bosses.

Clarissa said...

I was under the impression that stuff thrown out is no longer considered to belong to anyone, hence no need for plod to get a warrant to search your bins.

If this isn't the case I look forward to plod arresting every bin scavenger and dumpster diver in the country...