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Street trader wins appeal over conviction for trading without a licence Published Date: 14/06/2024

A man who sold goods in the streets of Birmingham did not break the law as he was protected under an 1871 act by being a pedlar, the High Court has found.

Local Government Lawyer reported that Mr Justice Ritchie quashed the convictions of Andrew Logie by Birmingham Crown Court, where he had been prosecuted by Birmingham City Council.

The council accused Logie of having on three dates traded in the street without a licence in contravention of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 (the LGA), Schedule 4, Section 10(1)(b).

Logie defended himself in the original proceedings before magistrates on the grounds that he was allowed to sell on the street by holding a Pedlar’s Certificate.

Magistrates found he was not trading as a pedlar - as he spent too much time static - and fined him £300 per offence.

He appealed to the Crown Court where, the Crown Court concluded that Logie - a litigant in person - had presented it with a document of uncertain origin that purported to show an informal 15 to 20-minute rule that allowed someone to remain in one place and still be within the pedlars' exemption.

The judge in that case had said:

“We do not know the source of that document. It is plainly not a legal authority. It has some kind of discussion but has no authority so far as we are concerned, and it is central to his case. It simply does not reflect our view of the law.

“There is no such informal 15 to 20-minute rule. It may be that people sometimes do not enforce it, in the way that people do not enforce speed limits when people travel a couple of miles an hour over the limit, but it does not mean they are not breaking the speed limit.”

Logie was convicted and then went to judicial review where Ritchie J said he had to decide the proper interpretation of S.3 of the Pedlars Act 1871, whether Logie  was trading as a pedlar within his certificate at the relevant times and whether some of the findings of fact made by the judge were irrational or unlawful for lack of  evidential foundation.

He noted the Pedlars Act 1871 at S.3 states:

“The term ‘pedlar' means any hawker, pedlar, petty chapman, ‘pedlar’, tinker, caster of metals or other person who, without any horse or other beast bearing or drawing burden, travels and trades on foot and goes from town to town or to other men's houses, carrying to sell or exposing for sale any goods, wares, or merchandise, or procuring orders for goods, wares, or merchandise immediately to be delivered.”

Ritchie J said a pedlar may stop on a street for 20 minutes to display merchandise, as a necessary part of trading whilst meandering around a town.

He said referring to an earlier case: “A pedlar is not required to be in constant motion. He is allowed to stop and sell his merchandise with some small equipment.”

But, standing for an hour in a fixed spot selling his merchandise was held to be fixed street trading, not being a pedlar.

To qualify as a pedlar under the Act, the person concerned must have travelled from town to town during the validity of his Pedlar’s Certificate, must trade on foot, not trade from a  horse or vehicle, must have goods for immediate delivery and may use moveable equipment.

The pedlar may stop for periods to attract the potential customers for around 20 minutes but not so long as an hour.

Ritchie J explained:

“In my judgment, taking the case law into account, moving between 16 and 24 times per eight hour shift is sufficient to satisfy the ‘travels whilst he/she trades’ requirement in the majority of cases. So, in my judgment, a usual stopping time of around 20 minutes and a maximum approaching but not as much as 30 minutes is a reasonable, usual temporal limit, depending on the type and size of equipment being used.”

On this basis, Logie had been within the limits.

Ritchie J said the judge at the earlier hearing only relied on the decision of Mitting J in Jones v Bath but the more senior case: Sample v Hulme, was not cited to Mitting J

“In my judgment Mitting J fell into error on that point and I respectfully do not agree with his conclusion.”

The Crown Court held that there was no 15-20 minute rule. “In my judgment that was an error of law,” Ritchie J said.

Logie had generally moved on every 15-20 minutes to seek new customers and had an egg timer which reminded him to do so.

“This, it seems to me, undermines the case which Birmingham were trying to prove,” Ritchie J said.

He added:

“He was unfixed, mobile and moved on regularly. Criminality, in my judgment, should not be determined by margins of a few minutes. On those factors, in law, in my judgment, the claimant was acting as a pedlar on all of the dates.”

The conviction were quashed as on all three occasions Logie was within his Pedlar’s Certificate.