Ms Hall lives in a flat above a Tesco Express in Essex and in January she saw the store staff throwing away large quantities of chilled food following a power cut. She is accused of joining passers-by in helping herself to some of it, including pies, potato waffles and ham. The police were called and Hall was arrested, handcuffed, and charged with taking £215 worth of food, in a little-known crime of "theft by finding", an offence with a maximum sentence of seven years.
British households throw away a third of the food they buy. Supermarket waste adds almost 25% to that. It's a global issue. In 2009 the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) reported that more than half the world's food is lost, wasted or discarded along the chain from farm to shop to consumer to dump. A Cabinet Office report the year before warned that if nothing was done to cut waste, severe food shortages would result, along with food price rises of up to 50%. Yet UNEP concluded that the world could easily feed itself, now and for a long time into the future, if only governments, producers, retailers and consumers radically changed their attitude to waste.
So what was the most serious crime committed? Ms Hall's self-appropriation or Tesco's wilful destruction and discarding of food?