A NORTH-EAST greengrocer has appealed to the people of Britain to help him fight on for the right to sell bananas in pounds and ounces.

Sunderland trader Steven Thoburn was one of five so-called "metric martyrs" from across Britain who lost their case to sell in imperial instead of metric measurements at the High Court in London yesterday.

Outside the court, a spokesman for the group said the decision had caused a deep constitutional crisis and called it "the death of democracy".

Neil Herron, a friend of Mr Thoburn, also said the judgement showed that Britain was ruled by bureaucrats from the European Union and not by the House of Commons.

He pledged that the five would now take their case to The House of Lords - if they can find the money.

A fighting fund set up to help meet the costs of the legal challenge has so far raised about £250,000.

Mr Herron said: "This is the death of democracy. It means a mere directive from a gathering of unelected bureaucrats over which we have no control can overrule parliament."

As well as the five's own lawyers' cost, they have got to pay Sunderland City Council about £100,000 and Hackney council £30,000, said Mr Herron.

He added: "We can just about cover that, but we will need the support of the British people to take this any further."

Mr Thoburn was first convicted last year in a landmark prosecution brought by Sunderland council after trading standards officers caught him selling bananas in pounds and ounces only, instead of offering customers a metric weight.

He was given a six-month conditional discharge and the case was taken up by the UK Independence party and a host of celebrities, including John Cleese, Elaine Page and Lord Tebbit.

A spokesman for Sunderland council said: "The council is pleased that the metrication legislation has been clarified at appeal level.

"Lord Justice Laws was critical of the complexity of the national legislation that created the offence with which Mr Thoburn was charged, but he was satisfied that Mr Thoburn 'knew well what the law was'.

"In Sunderland, trading standards officers have always acted in a fair and reasonable manner in promoting understanding of the metrication requirements."

Mr Thoburn's fellow "martyrs" are Colin Hunt of Hackney, Julian Harman and John Dove, from Cornwall, and Peter Collins, from Surrey