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Tony Hawkins, Retired Pedlar

November 24, 2012
by the gentle author

Tony Hawkins & Paul Gardner

Tony Hawkins was a pedlar selling peanuts and roasted chestnuts in the West End streets for ten years, but after getting arrested and roughed up by the police eighty-seven times his health failed and he retired.

Whereas Tony used to visit Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen in Commercial St regularly to buy thousands of bags for his thriving business, now he just comes to pass the time of day with his old friend Paul Gardner. And it was Paul who effected my introduction to Tony – a man with a defiant strength of character – frail physically yet energised by moral courage and brandishing the dog-eared stack of paperwork from his eighty-seven court cases, immensely proud that he won every one and it was proven he never broke the law once.

Over the centuries, street vendors have always been regarded with suspicion by the authorities while Londoners have cherished these characters for their resilience and wit, celebrating them in popular prints of the Cries of London. Remarkably, Tony’s pitiful catalogue of his wrangles with Westminster Council – who went to extreme lengths just to prevent him peddling nuts in Piccadilly – shows that this age-old ambivalence and prejudice against those who seek to make a modest living by trading in the street persists to the present day.

“I was unemployed as a labourer in Manchester, so I started off as a pedlar. I sold socks, balloons – anything really. A pedlar trades as he travels, and the will to support myself and the bright lights brought me to London. I was peddling around the West End selling peanuts mostly but also chestnuts. I sold flags at football matches too, Chelsea and Arsenal.

In the nineteen eighties, a sergeant took me to Bow St Magistrates Court for selling peanuts in Piccadilly. So I went along, it was no big deal. I admitted I was trading and I was a licenced pedlar. In court, they were amazed because thay hadn’t seen many pedlars, there were only half a dozen in the West End. I won the case and I went to shake the sergeant’s hand afterwards, but he pushed me away and said it wasn’t the end of it. He told me he’d do everything in his power to make sure I never worked again and he hounded me after that. He said, “If you’re going to do it again, we will arrest you again,” and I’ve been arrested more than eighty times and spent nights in cells. I’ve been roughed up so many times by policemen and council enforcement officers that I had to get a hidden camera because I feared for my safety.

They confiscated the equipment from me every time I was charged with the offence of street trading without a licence, when I had a pedlar’s licence issued in accordance with the Pedlar’s Act of 1871. The original Act was passed in the eighteenth century so that veteran soldiers could trade in fish, fruit, vegetables and victuals, and be distinguished from vagabonds. Anyone over the age of seventeen can get a pedlar’s licence as long as you have no criminal record. According to the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta, every person in this country has the right to trade.

I went to the High Court once when they found against me and the judge overturned it in my favour. But then in 2000 they brought in the Westminster Act because of people like myself. Westminster Council juggled  the words so that it states that pedlars are only allowed to go door to door. Prior to that Act, we were allowed to pedle lawfully anywhere in the United Kingdom but now the Act is also being used to stop pedlars in Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Warrington and Balham. Yet Acts and Statutes are not laws, they are rules for the governance, accepted only by consent of the populace.

Once I went to get my stuff back from Westminster Council and I met the Manager of Licencing & Street Enforcement. I asked him, “Why do you continue to waste the money of the council tax payers with so many cases against me when you haven’t won a single one?”

Your lawyer, Mr Barca, I’m sick of him,” he said, “He only represents the lower end of the market like you, and pimps and prostitutes.” Later, he denied it and said he had a witness too, but I had recorded him and he had to pay four thousand pounds in damages to Mr Barca.

After being hounded by the council and the police so many times, I’ve become narked and with good reason. Over the years, it has cost me fortunes to pay the legal costs. I had to work to earn all the money to pay for it. I regard myself as downtrodden because I was never allowed to benefit from my hard work, but if I had been allowed to continue trading, I could have owned a house by now and have some money in the bank.

People say to me,“Why have you done it?” I have done it because I believe in the right to trade freely as a human right.”

Although Tony is now retired, living comfortably in sheltered housing, he has become a self-taught yet highly articulate expert in the law regarding pedlars and street trading, and is involved with the Pedlars Information & Resource Centre. Despite losing his health and his livelihood, Tony has acquired moral stature as a human being, passionate to support others suffering similar harassment simply because they choose to exercise their right to sell in the street. With exceptional perseverance, acting out of a love of liberty and a refusal to be intimidated by authority, Tony Hawkins is an unacknowledged hero of the London streets.

Any pedlar that wishes to contact Tony can do so at TonyTHawkins@aol.com

Tony shows his pedlar’s licence and the paperwork from his eighty-seven court cases.

Tony Hawkins at Gardners Market Sundriesmen.

Tony Hawkins, unacknowledged hero of the London streets.

You may also like to read about

The Fly Pitchers of Spitalfields

Tony Purser, Flower Seller

Vagabondiana of 1817

William Craig Marshall’s Intinerant Traders

15 Responses leave one →
  1. November 24, 2012

    What a criminal waste of resources. No wonder the is very little confidence in the police.

  2. November 24, 2012

    I’m afraid I believe that the police are often extremely ignorant, and make it up as they go, operating with limited understanding of the actual law and the boundaries of their own authority. They chose to exercise it in this very pedestrian situation – surely there must be better uses of time and resources. It’s such a great illustration of the moral fortitude of a man whose experience of the law has been so negative that he has armed himself with knowledge. Inspirational!

  3. Peter Holford permalink
    November 24, 2012

    With the cutbacks the police are going to experience I think I’ve spotted one way in which they might redeploy resources without affecting the safety of the public.

  4. Annie permalink
    November 24, 2012

    What a great story – though full of sadness too. What an admirable man is Tony Hawkins. I admire his strength of character, his perseverance and most of all, his moral courage. Keep going Tony! You are an inspiration to those of us with less strength than you.

  5. hawkins permalink
    November 25, 2012

    Thanks to everyone for taking the time to read my story. You may ask where I get strength from to carry on. It wasn’t easy being constantly pulled off the ladder of success, never knowing when I was going to be arrested and taken to court, or worst still spending a day in a cell. It was all part of the job, apparently.

    I never went into this with my eyes closed. I had anticipated many legal eventualities, so I had a solicitor from day one. That was my first mistake. “Why?” you may ask as he won every case he handled on my behalf.

    The truth is it was all a scam. Let me explain. I had seen him work and watched every move he made, listening to every conceivable argument contained in the Pedlars’ Act, watching him tie the Police Council and the magistrates in knots. It was foolproof, providing I acted in accordance with the Act – which I obviously did – every case my solicitor won, he took almost six hundred pounds from the public funds as his costs and a short fall payment from myself of a few hundred pounds in cash, sometimes leaving me in debt.

    He would, from time to time not turn up at court, telephoning asking me to defend myself and still holding his hand out for his money. It was a revolving door. I was his cash cow.

    After the Westminster Act was brought into effect, it was game over. This brought an end to the use of the Pedlars’ Certificate in Westminster.

    THEY THINK IT’S ALL OVER

    Well, that’s what they think – but education is a dangerous thing. The only way is to stand on Common Law and start a whole new ball game. I have read a great deal into Common Law and understand Acts and Statutes Tort law. So you want to play games with me? This is what a solicitor will never tell you.

    Every magistrate has to take an Oath of Office and hold allegiance to the Queen and Common Law. This means any civil case brought in to a court where as the defendant demands the adjudicator to stand on Common Law is normally enough to get any case thrown out of court. Hopefully, I will persuade the Gentle Author to start a new story on lawful rebellion – How to beat the system fairly, using only real law and I can promise to save you all a few shillings on the way legally. Tell your friends and family about my system. Wait for it! I won’t let you down and you might even have some fun on the way.

  6. Jeannette permalink
    November 25, 2012

    i’d be interested to hear what the westminster council as well as solicitor barca have to say about this extraordinary case of police harassment. isn’t it against the law, there? and what is the reasoning for this prejudice against pedlars in westminster? are they thought to be pimps and prostitutes? why? what is the reasoning for that?

  7. jono permalink
    November 25, 2012

    What an inspiration to us all…….dont be dummies knowledge is power and we the people have the power the government and police only have the power we give to them . People are lied to by what we now have as Policy Enforcdement Officer that pretend to be Policemen which they are not one keeps the peace and protects the public the other is a enforcer for revenue collection of a corperation Wake up to the illusion

  8. Greg Tingey permalink
    November 27, 2012

    Reminds me of the persecution of the guy who was with Stephen Lawrence … continual harassment ……

  9. David Whittaker permalink
    November 27, 2012

    Brilliant..

  10. April 7, 2013

    Hi tony l have been a pedler for the 4 year now and I keep geting xxxx about by the place l walk around the streets of barmouth in mid Wales I live here for 36 years now l started seling bucket and spade on the promarde with a hand cart I have been rejected down to a delivery cage the plaice say it is too big I say them under whot afortey ar you acting is it lgmpa the maritime has sed I can not trade on the promarde with a pedlers licence he sed I need a street trading licence l phond canarfon licenceing department thay say thay do not allow street trading in canarfon thar are street traders in wales please send replie thats it now john

  11. tony hawkins permalink
    April 10, 2013

    John you can contact me at tonythawkins@aol.com for any info re pedlar’s info
    and the rule’s and condition’s that allow you to work within the law await you mail

  12. Wayne Norman permalink
    February 14, 2014

    Great story Tony I was a pedlar in and around Manchester in the early 80′s so I can identify the problems you have endured. Unfotunatly I wasnt as resiliant as you Tony and decided to jack it all and moved abroad. I am back now and living in Essex and have applied for a pedlars certificate and just this morning been refused although in my opinion I fit all the required criteria stated under the pedlars act.
    I am under the impression that the easiest thing the police can do is just refuse in the hope that
    nobody will appeal due to the costs ( £200 just to lodge the appeal with the magistrates court).
    In my opinion this is a blatant abuse of power and directly contravenes my right to trade. I am now seeking further advise i the matter.

    Keep up the good fight pal

  13. tony hawkins permalink
    February 25, 2014

    Wayne the best web site for you to visit about pedlar’s is…… pedlar’s information & resource
    center . this site will help you more than any other site . The site is owned by Robert who has
    a face book you can join hope this helps

  14. Elizabeth cornwell permalink
    March 12, 2014

    No wonder people lose respect for the police & council officials!I was brought up to respect the police & authority,but not any more these are institutions that are now rotten to the cors through poor leadership & total incompetence good for Tony Hawkins!

  15. Tim matthews permalink
    December 14, 2014

    Chichester district council have issued me witha letter asking me to attend a taped interview saying I am not pedling but street trading as I drive to town, I regularly pedlers there etc do I go to interview or not, can anyone help me

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