By Mark Collins – Howe & Co. Solicitors
Over the past few years I have represented a number of members of the Irish Traveller community in claims for racial discrimination when those clients have been refused service at pubs, restaurants or even when just walking into a shop. Below are some very simple examples of the type of discrimination that I see regularly, and still persist today. This discrimination is wrong and any person or company that continues to allow such discrimination should be challenged at every opportunity.
The Traveller community has rights. The main source of those rights comes from the Equality Act 2010. This Act gives recognised groups of people certain rights to be treated the same as anyone else. The Traveller community is a recognised group. Under the Act if you can show that the service you receive is less favourable than another person as a result of your race then you have the right to complain about that treatment and seek compensation and an apology from the person or company that discriminated against you. I am not going to go into the specific law, or try to explain the intricacies of the Act in this short article. All I would ask you to consider is that if you are treated in a less favourable manner to someone else as a result of your race then you should challenge that behaviour by using the Act, and bring your claim to the attention of the courts.
Examples of Race Discrimination
A Traveller family attend a local public house, and the father goes to the bar to order drinks for the family. At the bar he waits patiently to be served, but appears to be ignored. He therefore asks for service. The barman/lady approaches him and advises him that he will not be served. He innocently asks why, and is simply told that the pub does not serve Travellers, and that he will not be served. He has never been to that pub before and he calmly argues that he has never been to the pub before, but this does not change the barman/lady’s and he is told he will not be served, and therefore is forced to leave.
A Traveller couple decide to celebrate their wedding anniversary and attend a local pub/restaurant. They have not booked a table. They enter the pub/restaurant and enquire if a table is free. They can see the table area has many tables free. The restaurant manager advises that there are no tables free. However as they stand there asking polite questions another couple also arrive and do not have a booking and are immediately shown to a table. The Traveller couple question this, and are told that they are not allowed in the restaurant area, but if they would like to go the bar and eat, and pay up front then they are welcome to stay. Otherwise there are no tables for them. Whilst being told this another group of people arrive without a booking and again are seated. Again the Traveller couple question this but are told the only way they will be served is if they sit at the bar, and pay up front.
A Traveller lady walks into a large supermarket to shop for the week. As she moves around the store filling her basket she notices a man following her without a trolley. Every time she moves aisle, or picks something up the man follows her. She goes to the man to confront him, and he advises he is a store security person and is under orders to follow Travellers who come into the store. The lady Traveller feels very upset by this and decides to leave the store.
Each of these three examples is from cases I have dealt with in the last two years. There are more examples I could give. Each of these examples simply shows the extent of the racial discrimination that Travellers face even in today’s modern, supposedly, tolerant society.
What evidence do I need to bring a case?
Many of my clients ask me what evidence is needed to bring a claim for racial discrimination. The answer to that question is quite simple these days. Nearly everyone has a smart phone with either a video facility or an audio record facility on it.
If you are treated in a less favourable manner than other consumers then you should video or record the manner of that difference or refusal of service. Many of my clients do indeed record the refusal of service. My advice to you is to stay calm and simply ask the person serving you or dealing with the situation why you are being refused service. I completely understand that this is an emotive situation but the calmer you appear then the better the evidence. What I need to see is the refusal of service because of your race, or a good enough discussion which makes plain that the reason for the refusal is because of your race. Please try to remain calm, although I understand and so do the courts, that these situations can be emotional events for those being discriminated against. If the person refusing you service or treating you in a less favourable manner uses words to the effect that you are being treated in a different manner because you are a Traveller then record that. I would advise you not to then enter into an argument about the rights and wrongs of the discrimination. You have the evidence of the discrimination and that should be enough to prove your case.
What else do you need to know?
Another important point I must STRESS is that the amount of time you have to make a claim under the law is very short. You have only 6 months from the date of the discrimination to issue a Claim Form in the County Court otherwise your claim is out of time and you cannot continue to then make your claim. It is therefore vital that once you have the evidence of the discrimination that you contact a specialist solicitor in discrimination work to make the proper claim. The quicker you do this the better your case as your solicitor can send out letter seeking the collection of any other CCTV footage of the refusal that the potential defendant may have. It also gives time to the solicitor to try and negotiate a settlement rather than ending up in court.
And finally …
Please remember that you have rights under the law, and that you should challenge any person or company that treats you unfairly or less favourably because of your race.
I hope my short article has given you some examples and advice about your rights, and if I can assist or give further advice then Howe and Co solicitors will be able to assist you.
You can also contact the Equality and Social Justice Unit at the Traveller Movement for free and confidential advice. Call 0207 607 2002. Or visit: https://travellermovement.org.uk/advocacy-support/equality-social-justice-unit