The owner of Walsall butcher’s business has been ordered to pay costs totalling £1,798 and given an 18 month community order of 200 hours of unpaid work, after he cheated customers with short weight sales from his shop.
Matthew Butler, owner of Muddy Pig Butchers 29 Cross Street, Willenhall, Walsall, WV13 1PG pleaded guilty on 18 February at Dudley magistrates Courts to the ‘fraudulent use of a scale’ and of ‘selling short weight meat’. Over the course of the one-hour hearing, the court were presented with irrefutable evidence that Mr Butler had altered his scales deliberately to give a false impression of the weight of produce that was being sold.
The court also heard that complaints about this ‘sharp practice’ were made to Walsall Council in 2019. Undercover Trading standards officers had then visited the “Muddy Pig” shop on two separate occasions in October and November of that year and each time they were sold stewing steak, that was 40 grams short of the weight they had asked for.
During a second visit to “Muddy Pig” Trading Standards officers had announced themselves and asked to examine Mr Butler’s business scales – consequently, this item was seized. Photographic evidence produced in court showed that coins had been blue tacked on to the scale mechanism. The coins were the equivalent of 40 grams in weight, therefore every time the scale was used customers received 40 g less of produce than they had ordered and were being systematically overcharged.
When officers removed the coins and tested the shop scale, they found that it was in fact accurate and could see no reason for the presence of the coins other than to defraud customers.
In mitigation, the Judge heard that Mr Butler’s business was burgled in early September 2019. During this time stock was stolen and significant damage was caused to the inside of his premises - this included his shop scales, which were knocked on to the floor. The court heard that when Mr. Butler realised his scales were damaged he tried "experimenting" with them in order to get them to read satisfactorily - and it was for this reason that he added the ballast.
Councillor Garry Perry, Deputy Leader and portfolio holder for regulatory services said:
“This is a significant case and I’m very pleased that Trading Standards vigorously pursued it, and the Judge has supported our prosecution case. It was without doubt deliberate fraud and cynically geared towards fleecing vulnerable, as well as low income and often, elderly shoppers. It is a sad truth that while loyal customers were supporting this butcher’s business with their custom and in good faith, he was cheating them.”
“Just by using this set of dodgy scales within the two month period of our initial investigations, meant that many customers would have been overcharged by roughly 30p per item. Anyone buying three or more items in one go, would be losing £1.00 for every shopping trip made- and that’s just one person. As the Judge ordered, it is only right that those customers cheated in this way, are compensated by way of his community and compensation order. Mr Butler must therefore give back to the community from which he has taken.”
Notes to editors
- Walsall Council undercover Trading Standards officers visited Muddy Pig on 2 occasions (6/10/19 & 16/11) on both occasions they were sold short weight meat
- Officers later discovered the shop scales had been tampered with and that 40g of ballast had been added to the pan, and this was passed on as a 40g short weight/overcharge to customers.
- This amounted to overcharge on every item weighed on the scale and not just the overall transaction.
- Matthew Butler admitted that he had been trading in this fashion trading since at least 06 September 2019.
- The Court heard that his deliberate act of fraud had disproportionately affected pensioners and other low-income customers that bought small quantities of meat on a regular basis. The overcharge affected every item weighed on the scale and not just the overall transaction.
- Mr Butler pleaded guilty to charges of fraudulent use of a scale and of selling short weight meat to undercover officers on 2 separate occasions.
- He was given a community order for 200 hours of unpaid work over a period of 18 months. Costs - £899.00 plus victim surcharge of £85.00 making a total of £984.00. The judge considered a custodial sentence but reduced this upon mitigation.
- The costs are to be paid within the next 28 days.