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Wednesday 29 January 2014

Iceland Scores Own Goal

[Updates, two so far, at end of post]

Malcolm Walker is not an uncaring man, far from it: Iceland’s CEO pays his staff well and clearly cares about his customer base. But he is not slow to loose off the kind of comments that bring notoriety, and all too slow not to see the latest potential PR disaster awaiting his company. Because someone worth a reported £215 million is standing by while the cops go after others over £33 worth of discarded food.
Cod fillet indeed ... Malcolm Walker of Iceland

While Walker receives the representatives of the Fourth Estate, with the Maily Telegraph eliciting quotes likeMy wealth isn’t something I should ever have to apologise for”, preceded by Jan Moir from the Mail tellingThe boss of Britain's least fashionable supermarket hits back at the snobs and sneering lefties”, events on the ground in Kentish Town are not doing his image any favours.

As the deeply subversive Guardian noted, “residents of a squat in north London were arrested on 25 October, just before midnight, after a member of the public called the police to report three men climbing over a wall at the back of Iceland in Kentish Town ... Police arrested the men as they left the area with a holdall and trolley containing food ... The total value of the items taken allegedly amounted to £33”.

So are the three being charged with breaking and entering? You jest. The food – “tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and Mr Kipling cakes” had been dumped in a dustbin behind the Iceland store. So the Police retrieved the goods, and returned them to the retailer, only for them to go back in the bin and be sent to landfill. The sheer lunacy of the situation is all too clear.

It gets worse: “the three men were charged under an obscure section of the 1824 Vagrancy Act, after being discovered in ‘an enclosed area, namely Iceland, for an unlawful purpose, namely stealing food’”. The CPS has responded to suggestions that it should drop the case by asserting “we feel there is significant public interest in prosecuting these three individuals”.

Malcolm Walker could have said something. Thus far he has not. And, were he to remain silent while this farce proceeds, it would not be his first recent PR disaster: last February he appeared before Eddie Mair on The Andy Marr Show (tm) and told a whole pile of whoppers about the horsemeat scandal, blaming local authorities, while conveniently ignoring the evidence.

The idiocy of expending scarce resources charging three individuals for taking £33 of food that had already been thrown out is bad enough. That the premises concerned are part of a chain run by a bloke worth hundreds of millions just makes the whole saga look that much worse. Malcolm Walker needs to say something, and say it soon, because if he doesn’t, Iceland’s image will take a terrible beating.

He had time to promote his new book. So he can make time for this. We’re waiting.

[UPDATE1 1145 hours: Malcolm Walker, who is a recent recruit to Twitter, has now responded to the Guardian story.
As can be seen, this appears to have taken him by surprise. He asserts that the call to Police was nothing to do with the store staff.
Also, he appears to be concerned as to why the CPS has decided to prosecute. So that's a whole lot of improvement on saying nothing, and full marks to him. But he needs to follow through. And then there is the whole business of food discards - not just at Iceland]

[UPDATE2 1700 hours: the CPS has now decided, even though they previously said there was "a significant public interest" in prosecuting those now becoming known as the Iceland Three, to drop the prosecution, on, er, public interest grounds.

So that's a shed load of taxpayers' money sprayed up the wall on a wild goose chase, then. Perhaps we should be thankful that it could have been a lot more money being wasted had the case proceeded.

And kudos to Malcolm Walker for managing a timely differentiation of the Police and CPS action from his own view - a PR disaster well bodyswerved. All he needs to do now is repent over that Marr Show attack on local Government]


rob said...

I trust the tabloids will give their full support - didn't they use Benji the Binman for similar purposes?

Albeit for gaining information which could increase their profits rather than an altruistic purpose of charity for the starving.

Gonzoland said...

Are there 'Complete Bounder', 'Utter Cad' and 'Total Shower' Acts?

RicP said...

They need to reduce the price of death-date foods and sell @20p, still cheaper than waste to landfill. Needs management direction and sensible policy.

SimonB said...

Yet the CPS felt it unlikely a prosecution would succeed in the Danny Shaw shooting case, so didn't give a jury the chance to try his killer.

Anonymous said...

The 1824 Vagrancy Act was passed to make it a crime to be homeless, (nothing changes). I wouldn't be at all surprised if it allows the police to prosecute without Iceland's knowledge or consent.
BTW I like the new captcha which can now be read by human beings.

Neil said...

I mentioned this case on a forum where there's a policeman and a solicitor. The particular section of Vagrancy Act might be obscure to the Guardian hack but it is still used today to bring charges against people who unlawfully enter premises or building sites then, when challenged, say they're looking for an individual or give some such excuse.

The fact that the items taken were of low value and from a bin is immaterial, the three men climbed over a wall into the shop's yard.

Having said that you have to wonder why the CPS is pressing forward with the case. Do any of the men arrested have form?

Anonymous said...

Iceland's statement:


DBC said...

This whole episode reads just like "Private Eye's" Neasdon Police Log.

Anonymous said...

@Neil. They weren't arrested on the premises, but in the street in possession of stolen goods. There was no need to invoke the vagrancy laws.
I should h.ave kept quiet. You've reverted to the almost unreadable captcha, that needs several guesses.