Skip raider says he will 'do it again' after CPS drops charges

'This is how we live' - William James says 'hundreds' of people in London are eating food from bins

LAST UPDATED AT 10:30 ON Thu 30 Jan 2014

THE Crown Prosecution Service has dropped its case against three men accused of stealing food out of an Iceland skip. 

Paul May, Jason Chan and William James, all residents of a squat in north London, were arrested last October for jumping over a wall at the back of the supermarket and taking some tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and Mr Kipling cakes out of a bin.

The CPS insisted there was "significant public interest" in pursuing the case, which prompted an outcry in the media and on Twitter yesterday.

According to The Guardian, Malcolm Walker, the chief executive of Iceland, contacted the CPS to request that the case be dropped, stating that the company had not sought a prosecution.

One of the defendants William James has since said he has been taking food from bins for "a few years" and plans to continue doing so in the future.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, James claimed he knew "hundreds" of people in London who lived off food from bins – a practice described as 'skipping' or 'freeganism'.

"This is how we live – this is how a lot of people live in London now," he said. "I don't think it belongs to anybody. It's in a bin. No one wants it." When asked if he should have climbed over a wall to get to the bins, James said he thought it was "wrong for people to try to lock it away" and was "not going to feel guilty about it".

James said he lived with around 30 people who all lived off food in this way, some too poor to buy food and some wanting to take it because it would otherwise go to waste.

His lawyer Mike Schwarz said he was "really surprised" that his clients had been prosecuted under the "pre-Victorian" 1824 Vagrancy Act and described it as a "sign of desperation" by the police and prosecution. · 

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It seems there is a lot of food going waste in this way. Some waste is inevitable, when demand is variable on unpredictable, but it seems the amount is excessive.

It needs a government and all supermarket effort.

The BRCs director general Helen Dickinson urged police procecution as it was theft,will somebody at the BRC sack this stupid ignorant woman who obviously Iives a pampered life with her obscene salary.Supermarkets should be fined for dumping good food,every effort should have to be made to distribute usable food to shelters,food banks etc.

Sandy is right in saying that the Government and Supermarkets need to work on this, but they are only the symptoms of a public attitude that devalues food and makes it acceptable to throw perfectly good food away. People demand perfect shaped food, with unrealistic sell-by dates at uneconomically low prices. All this combines to make it impossible for the supermarkets to sell food that is safe and good, but which may be "non-standard" in shape or a day outside its sell-by, so what can they do but dump it?... The businesses are just responding to consumer demand (read "maximising profits") and the Government is doing the wrong things (providing an environment where food is devalued) because it is the easy way out. Government and Supermarkets will only change their attitude when enough of us drive them to do so

Fair point about prosecuting supermarkets for trashing food that is obviously eatable.

Isn't it more humane that unwanted food feeds hungry people rather than going to landfill. To attempt to prosecute these people is sick, there is no other word for it.

"Supermarkets should be fined for dumping good food,every effort should have to be made to distribute usable food to shelters,food banks etc."

I can't say I agree. I assume that the supermarkets, and/or others involved in the distribution, might be held responsible if someone got health problems from eating expired food.

"food that is obviously eatable."

Food is edible, not eatable.

To attempt to prosecute these people is sick, there is no other word for it.

Sick? It looks fair and square to me.

It may come as a surprise to you, but theft is theft.

People that are rooting through dustbins for something to eat are hardly likely to be in the best of health to begin with, I suspect the biggest health problem they face is malnutrition.

Is that we've come to? Making criminals of people desperate enough to eat food from bins?

I'm sure the police would rather spend their time dealing with dangerous criminals rather than arresting someone who is obviously desperate and needs professional help just because some pampered 'director' in a non job finds poor people unsightly.

Politicians help themselves to public money and laugh it off, someone eats mushrooms from a bin and becomes a criminal.

People are being prosecuted under pre Victorian laws, what next? Sending kids up chimneys and down coal mines, debtors prisons, factory owners flogging 10 year olds? If people are desperate enough to eat food from dustbins in this country in 2014 something is seriously wrong.

"People that are rooting through dustbins" etc.

Agreed. If that's the case catching salmonella or e-coli bacteria, or eating pieces of glass from a broken container (e.g. jam jar), is probably the last thing they need,

And those involved in the distribution may be held responsible.

Yes, perhaps the supermarkets could be liable simply for not securing their garbage containers properly.

"Politicians help themselves to public money and laugh it off" etc.

Correct. But a crime does not excuse another. (Unless it's self defence, but that's a matter for the courts to decide.)

Whether you steal public money or from someone else's dustbin, doesn't matter. Both actions are crimes. All crimes should be prosecuted if the victim demands so.

Yes, they crimes mentinoned are not equally serious, but that's a matter of quantity (degree of seriousness) rather than quality (theft or not).

If I for some mysterius reason chose to put my wheelie bin outdoors and store valuables in it, it would still be illegal to go to my property and take (or damage) the valuables in the bin without my consent.


"People are being prosecuted under pre Victorian laws, what next?"

Does it matter whether or not the laws are "pre Victorian"? Does that in itself mean they are good or bad?

"If people are desperate enough to eat food from dustbins in this country in 2014 something is seriously wrong."

Agreed. But that doesn't in itself mean that the owners of the bins are to blame.

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