This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
I think we can all empathize with the man who pulled a rat out of his pocket at a restaurant in England in an effort to avoid paying his £7.25 bill [$10.79]. Because we all hate paying for food, don't we? It's just fuel, isn't it? Tasty fuel with salt on it. And we all like a deal, don't we? We all like Groupon.
But imagine you didn't need to sign up for Groupon's interminable emails to get a good deal at the Borneo Bistro, in Sunderland, England. Imagine that instead all you had to do was get drunk, smuggle a live rat into the restaurant in your track pants, and then, at an opportune moment, drop the rat on the floor and go, "AUGH, A RAT!" and immediately turn to the waiter and say: "That's a rat. I am not paying £7.25 for a plate of buffet food when there is a rat on the floor."
Such is the reality for Christopher Baker, who was up in Sunderland's Magistrates' Court today charged with the above. He was charged £60 [$90] plus a buffet fee of £7.25 for his efforts—which took place on _Valentine's Day—_after CCTV footage quite clearly showed him taking a rat out of his pocket.
"On February 14 —Valentine's Day—Mr. Baker has attended the restaurant, ordered a buffet for one and a bottle of water," prosecutor Lee Poppett said. "He picked his food up and found a seat at a table on his own at the back of the restaurant.
"At shortly before 4:00 PM he suddenly jumps up and shouts, 'It's a rat. I'm not eating here, I want my money back.' And indeed, there is a rat on the floor."
Here's what Willie Johnstone, the man tasked with defending this act, told the court today: "Christopher, on that day, had been drinking heavily and unfortunately he decided to buy a rat for his daughter by way of a present.
"Unfortunately, he then decided to go for a meal. He sat down and ate his meal. When he had finished the meal, he took the rat out, and said it bit him. It jumped to the floor. He panicked and left the restaurant. He is very remorseful for his behavior."
He also conceded: "We do deal with some unusual cases from time to time."
When you are next looking for an icon, look not for Cher, or Beyoncé, Sting or Freddie Mercury, Nelson Mandela or Malcolm X: turn instead to Christopher Baker, a man who was willing to sit in a restaurant with a live rat in his pocket for a number of wriggling minutes while he ate a plate of buffet food and then didn't pay for it. Because, truly: that is dedication to not paying £7.25. A pet rat alone costs anywhere between £5 and £7, as-is. Keeping it in the pocket of your trousers for up to 20 minutes sounds like a kind of torturous, Room 101-style punishment. And yet, Christopher Baker did this, all for one delicious plate of what the Borneo Bistro website promises to be: "International Authentic Dishes from Filipino, Malaysian, Thai, Chinese, Caribbean, and African FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST."
"People like him deserve the death penalty."
Less impressed was Borneo Bistro restaurateur Kevin Smith, whose reputation Christopher attempted to ruin in his bundled attempt to cheat his way to a plate of Malaysian beef. "He is just the scum of the earth," Smith told the Sunderland Echo. "He could have destroyed the reputation I have built up over seven years." A fair, if hyperbolic, assessment.
"People like him deserve the death penalty," he added. "As far as I'm concerned, he shouldn't be in our society. He is no use to anybody and he's caused nothing but grief."
That might seem a tad harsh, but hear the man out. I mean, sure, there's quite a lot of debate over whether or not capital punishment truly discourages crime. Last year, a study from the National Research of the National Academies, based on 30 years of data, came to the conclusion that the idea of the death penalty as a deterrent from crimes such as murder is fundamentally flawed. If you're going to go so far as to murder someone, the repercussions are probably not going to trouble you too much: you're not thinking too clearly. But what impact might it have on the rate of men taking rats out of their pants and dropping them in restaurants? Maybe you'd think twice about dropping a rodent in an Asian fusion restaurant if there was a chance the court might doom you to the oblivion of the chair instead of slapping you with a £60 fine and a 12-month community order with supervision. All Kevin Smith is saying is: maybe let's have that difficult conversation about hanging people by the necks until they die. Let's throw it to a vote.
The rat, sadly, was taken by Acord Pest Control, who asserted that it was probably tame—a conclusion also arrived at by Kevin Smith, who told reporters, "It was very clean, like it had just had a haircut"—but released it into the wild anyway.
It is probably dead now. The restaurant remains open, and £60 richer.
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