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Charges dropped against men accused of taking food from Iceland bins

PUBLISHED: 17:17 29 January 2014 | UPDATED: 13:57 30 January 2014

Iceland in Kentish Town. Picture: Google

Iceland in Kentish Town. Picture: Google

Google

Charges have been dropped against three squatters facing trial for taking waste food from a supermarket dustbin, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has announced.

Paul May, 35, Jason Chan, 31, and William James, 23, were due to stand trial at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on Monday for taking tomatoes, mushrooms and cheese that had been thrown out by Iceland in Kentish Town Road, Kentish Town.

But after facing scrutiny over whether the prosecution was in the public interest – including from Iceland which only found out about the case through the media – the CPS has decided not to pursue the matter.

Baljit Ubhey, chief crown prosecutor for CPS London, said: “This case has been reviewed by a senior lawyer and it has been decided that a prosecution is not required in the public interest.

“While the decision to charge was taken by the Metropolitan Police Service, a subsequent review of the case by the CPS did not give due weight to the public interest factors tending against prosecution.

“In reconsidering this case, we have had particular regard to the seriousness of the alleged offence and the level of harm done. Both of these factors weigh against a prosecution. Additionally, further representations received today from Iceland Foods have affected our assessment of the public interest in prosecuting.

“We hope this demonstrates our willingness to review decisions and take appropriate and swift action when necessary. The Crown Prosecution Service is committed to bringing the right charges to court when - and only when - it is proper to do so.

“We have notified the legal representatives of the defendants that the proceedings will be discontinued. This decision has been taken on public interest grounds alone.”

The men had been charged under the Vagrancy Act 1824 after allegedly climbing over a wall in Holmes Road, Kentish Town, behind Iceland, and taking £33 worth of food on October 25 last year.

They were charged with being found “in an enclosed area, namely Iceland, for an unlawful purpose, namely stealing food”.

Earlier today, Iceland issued a statement saying it had asked the CPS why it believed the case was worth pursuing.

It said: “The store in question is next door to a police station. Iceland staff did not call the police, who attended on their own initiative. Nor did we instigate the resulting prosecution, of which we had no knowledge until the media reports of it appeared yesterday evening.

“We are currently trying to find out from the Crown Prosecution Service why they believe that it is in the public interest to pursue a case against these three individuals, and will comment further when we are more fully informed.”

The store said it works hard to minimise food waste.

The case has highlighted the “skipping” or “freegan” practices of retrieving food discarded by supermarkets and cafes to save money and reduce waste.

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