CPS under fire for charging men who took food from skip

Three men face prosecution for taking vegetables, cheese and Mr Kipling cakes out of an Iceland skip

(Image credit: 2013 Getty Images)

TWEETERS have reacted with fury after the Crown Prosecution Service decided to prosecute three men for stealing food from a skip behind an Iceland supermarket.

The CPS claims there is "significant public interest" in charging the men, who took some tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and Mr Kipling cakes - with a total value of £33.

The case will require magistrates to scrutinise the phenomenon of "skipping", in which people take discarded supermarket waste to cook and eat, says The Guardian. It will also highlight the issue of supermarket waste.

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One of the defendants, Paul May, a 35-year-old freelance web designer, is expected to argue that he took the food because he needed it to eat and does not consider he has done anything illegal or dishonest in removing food destined for landfill from a skip.

May, Jason Chan and William James, all residents of a squat in north London, were arrested just before midnight on 25 October last year, after allegedly climbing over a wall at the back of Iceland in Kentish Town. They have since been charged under an obscure section of the 1824 Vagrancy Act.

Hundreds of people took to Twitter to express shock at the decision, many saying it was unfair and a waste of time and money to criminalise people for being hungry. Some argued that it should be illegal for corporations to throw good food away instead of donating it to food banks.

Three charged with stealing food from bins behind a supermarket. That's right. It's 2014 and we're in the UK. http://t.co/9plY1y2aRM— tom_watson (@tom_watson) January 28, 2014

Many tweeters directed their criticisms towards Iceland, calling the move a "PR disaster", while others appealed directly to the CPS twitter account arguing that there is "no public interest" in the prosecutions.

Iceland issued a statement today pointing out that its staff did not call the police "who attended on their own initiative". It adds that it did not "instigate" the prosecution of the men and had no knowledge of the incident until it was alerted to media reports yesterday.

"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 statement said.

Why is it in public interest to prosecute those taking discarded food? http://t.co/1gfac8KtDT— Robert Peston (@Peston) January 29, 2014

Meanwhile, more than 1,500 people have already signed a petition asking for the CPS to drop the charges. "What possible public interest is there in prosecuting people for taking food out of a skip?" wrote author and environmental activist George Monbiot. "CPS gone crazy."

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