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Edinburgh Woollen Mill accused of falsely labelling scarves 100% cashmere

Published 11/10/2016

A trading standards officer cut two scarves into pieces and sent them for analysis at two different test labs, a court heard
A trading standards officer cut two scarves into pieces and sent them for analysis at two different test labs, a court heard

A ban on reporting the trial of Edinburgh Woollen Mill, which is accused of mislabelling scarves as 100% cashmere, has been overturned despite the firm's concerns about publicity in the run-up to Christmas.

The national chain, based in Langholm, Dumfries and Galloway, denies falsely claiming scarves were pure cashmere on two occasions in 2014.

It is vigorously challenging the testing process used by the prosecution.

The alleged offences, brought under the Textile Products (Labelling and Fibre Composition) Regulations 2012, are said to have taken place at the company's store in Church Place, Dumfries, which is one of its 265 high-street shops.

A trial began at Dumfries Sheriff Court on September 15 but reporting restrictions prevented publicity.

Susan Duff QC, for the accused, argued against an application on behalf of the BBC and ITV Border to revoke the ban, arguing that publicity could affect the evidence of witnesses who are yet to come to court.

She also said: "The accused has a legitimate concern about its business and employees. Now is the busiest time of year for the purchase of cashmere."

She said reporting that scarves were not 100% cashmere could be "prejudicial to the legitimate interests" of the firm.

But Ronnie Clancy QC, for the BBC, argued that this being "the busiest time of year for Christmas orders" was simply an issue of reputation, which is not covered by the Contempt of Court Act under which the reporting ban was made. Sheriff George Jamieson agreed to revoke the interim order he had previously made, and allowed the case to be reported.

Previously, Alison Irving, 52, a trading standards officer at Dumfries and Galloway Council, told the court she had test purchased a blue tartan scarf in February 2014, and a red one four months later.

Both scarves were reduced to £30 from £60 and were labelled as 100% Lochmere cashmere, the court heard.

Mrs Irving later cut the scarves into pieces, bagged and sealed them, and sent them off to be analysed at two different test labs - SGS UK and Intertek UK.

It emerged she was acting on information from the Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute.

On receiving reports back from the test labs, Mrs Irving said she sent a letter in August 2014 cautioning Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

She said she notified the business that one scarf had been found to contain 84.4% cashmere, while the other was found to have 61.6% cashmere, with the remainder made up of other wool fibres.

Under cross-examination by Ms Duff, the witness said it was "odd" that the results received back from each of the labs had been different from each other.

She said: "They were different from each other but neither said they were 100%."

The witness confirmed that after sending Edinburgh Woollen Mill a sample, the company sent back results from another test lab showing that both scarves were found to be 100% cashmere.

Ms Duff also challenged the evidence of a textile analyst Liqin Zhang, who gave evidence saying she identified wool and yak in the scarf samples.

Ms Duff told Ms Zhang that Edinburgh Woollen Mill had sent a DNA-tested 100% cashmere sample for her to analyse in August 2016.

The lawyer said the fabric had been subject to the same processes and dyed the same colour as the red scarf sample previously tested.

Ms Duff told Ms Zhang: "You identified that 100% cashmere sample as 85% cashmere and 15% unidentifiable fibres.

"The issue is with your identification and not with the product, isn't it?"

Ms Zhang replied: "If the fibre structure is damaged I have to report it as unidentifiable, I can't just guess."

Ms Duff continued: "You couldn't identify fibres that were 100% cashmere, that's down to your ability?"

Ms Zhang replied: "That's my decision on what my observation is. I'm not saying I'm perfect."

Press Association

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