The report of a High Court decision caught my eye this morning with its quaint reference to the Pedlars Act of 1871.
Bath and North East Somerset (BaNES) Council prosecuted Mr Jones for street trading contrary to the rather less memorable Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. It seems that Mr Jones had travelled to the scene of the crime with a large quantity of umbrellas on two consecutive days and set up his pitch for 55 minutes and 17 minutes respectively.
The important point was that Jones produced a valid pedlar’s certificate and claimed that a statutory exception in Schedule 4 of the 1982 Act applied, making his activities lawful. The magistrates weren’t having it and so off he went to the administrative division of the High Court.
His appeal was dismissed, substantially on this basis. Apparently the definition of “pedlar” in Section 3 of the 1871 Act requires that said person travels on foot.
In the 19th century, the statutory definition of a pedlar excluded somebody who rolled into town on a horse and cart. The court held as a matter of interpretation that the 1871 Act was now to be read as if references to “horse” had been replaced with “motor van” or “car”.
It makes me wonder of course, how far you have to walk to come within the definition. What if this bloke had driven, or caught a lift, to the edge of town with his umbrellas and walked the rest of the way?
On a practical note, I was surprised that he could afford the petrol. Maybe I should get into umbrellas.