A commemorative coin collector who was arrested after attempting to pay for his fuel at a petrol station with a £100 coin, insisting it was legal tender, has been awarded a £5,000 compensation payout.
Brett Chamberlain, 54, a carpenter and father-of-four, had attempted to pay for £60 of diesel at a Tesco Extra filling station in Exeter in July 2020 using a silver coin commemorating London’s Trafalgar Square, only 45,000 of which were issued by the Royal Mint when it was released in 2016.
His offer was rejected by staff, leading to a row in which Mr Chamberlain, from Tiverton in Devon, argued that the special edition memento was valid under the 1971 Coinage Act.
The police were called and the tradesman was arrested on suspicion of “making off without payment” and interviewed by officers at Exeter Police Station for four hours before being released, subsequently receiving a letter saying he would not be charged.
Not satisfied, Mr Chamberlain commenced legal action, complaining that he had not received “an adequate apology or an assurance the incident would be removed from the police national computer”, according to The Daily Mail.
He received notice of the damages he had won this month.
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“They interrogated me,” Mr Chamberlain told The Sun. “They wanted to prosecute me for using Royal Mint coins.
“You couldn’t make it up. I was trying to spend money like any other citizen. I always use the coins to buy my fuel.
“Morrisons, Asda and Sainsbury’s have taken them but Tesco are always difficult,” he added.
Tesco has said it will not accept commemorative coins as it is not considered to be circulating legal tender, according to the tabloid.
Also commenting on the case, Devon and Cornwall Police said: “We have taken steps to recognise and rectify the issues raised in this case.”
Under UK law, a person cannot be sued over a debt if they have attempted to complete the transaction in question using legal tender.
All Royal Mint coins would be considered as such in the eyes of a court.
However, a shop or bank is not obliged to accept cash payments in any currency larger than a £50 note.
Equally, they do not have to accept payments in 1p and 2p coins for anything that costs more than 20p, although they might choose to do so at their own discretion - and had infinite reserves of patience.
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