Social Welfare Lawyers in the Centre of Birmingham

The Traveller Movement and Others – v – J D Wetherspoon Plc

The Traveller Movement and Others – v – J D Wetherspoon Plc, Central London County Court, 18 May 2015, HHJ Hand QC

On 17th November 2011 the annual Traveller Movement Conference took place.  As usual the Conference took place at the offices of the Traveller Movement (offices shared with other organisations) at the Resource Centre on Holloway Road in London.  Also as usual, after the Conference, some of the delegates went for a drink to the Coronet public house next door,  a public house run by J D Wetherspoon.   There was no evidence of any problems having been caused in previous years or in this year by delegates from the Conference.  However, there was evidence of problems following on from a Conference at the Resource Centre in 2005 on the occasion of the Anarchist Book Fair.

Some of the delegates who attempted to enter the Coronet Pub were excluded from entry.  Some of the Claimants were Irish Travellers and Romani Gypsies but others were not Irish Travellers or Romani Gypsies.  One of the Claimants was the Traveller Movement itself.  The Claimants took a claim in discrimination and harassment under the Equality Act 2010.

After reviewing all the evidence and the CCTV footage that was available, the Judge found that 9 out of the 19 Claimants (including the Traveller Movement as 1 of the 9) had been discriminated against on racial grounds.  Importantly he found that the Traveller Movement could be discriminated against since they amounted to “a person” under the Equality Act 2010.  He also found that some of the Claimants who were not Irish Travellers and Romani Gypsies could be discriminated against since the discrimination related to their “association” with Irish Travellers and Romani Gypsies.  He did not award damages to the Traveller Movement since they could not suffer “injury to feelings”. He awarded £3,000 damages each to the other successful Claimants.

He found that the then Manager of the Coronet (who was not actually on duty at the time of the incidents concerned) had given directions to the security company to exclude people who had been attending the Traveller Movement Conference.  The Judge concluded as follows:-

144.  It is common ground that a group of delegates, which initially included Mr Howe, Mr Browne, Inspector Watson, Miss Kiely and an unknown man, were refused entry to the Coronet by the doormen at about 4.45 pm.  They were joined shortly afterwards by Miss Sherlock.  Miss Kiely and Miss Sherlock were the only Irish Travellers in that group.  Later Ms MacNamara joined the group; I have found as a fact that the doormen would not allow them to enter the Coronet.  The doormen did not say the group was being excluded because it included Irish Travellers and I have found that they did not refuse entry in an aggressive or intimidatory way….

145. To my mind the answer lies in the assumptions, which lay behind the decision made by Mr Leach [the then manager]…Whether or not he was influenced by events in 2005 following the Anarchists Book Fair or by the opinions of one of his customers, importantly he concluded that Travellers’ Conference was a source of potential disorder.  He did so because he thought that those in attendance might be likely to engage in disorder.  I have inferred that his analysis that must have been that because of disorder at the Dale Farm eviction it was possible it would be repeated inside the Coronet; therefore, security measures were necessary.  In turn, that must have been based on the premise either that some of those guilt of violent behaviour at Dale Farm might be in attendance at the conference and would be likely to repeat such behaviour in the Coronet or that those in attendance, even if not involved in or responsible for the disorder at Dale Farm, would be likely to engage in disorderly behaviour once inside the Coronet.  There could have been, of course, a combination of the two. 

146. The matter cannot be explored further because of the untimely death of Mr Leach and each party has been put at a disadvantage (albeit a different one in each case) as a result and I am concerned about what I should make of this limited and, in the sense of being unexplored, incomplete evidence.  Nevertheless, I have reached the conclusion that each limb of the alternative just referred to (and also, therefore, of any combination of the two) must involve the further implicit assumption that Irish Travellers and Romani Gypsies are liable to engage in public disorder.  I have not lost sight of the fact that Mr Leach was concerned to ensure that large numbers should not be allowed to congregate in the Coronet but I have rejected the Defendant’s case that there was a “Large Groups Policy” generally in operation.  In my judgment the evidence does not support that….

148. By contrast the policy which Mr Leach proposed was irrational.  It was not based on any actual experience.  There is no evidence that any Irish Travellers or English Gypsies had been involved in the disturbance created by visitors to the Anarchist Book Fair in 2005 and Mr Leach referred to no other incident at the Coronet and I infer he had not been involved in any.  Also I infer his knowledge as to what had happened at Dale Farm must have been second hand.  There was no evidence of any personal involvement on his part or even any acquaintance with anybody who had been there.  Even if the alleged conversation with an Irish customer probably did take place (and I have found that it did not) Mr Leach had no rational basis for accepting the suggestion that there might be trouble if the Dale Farm protesters showed up…

149. In my judgment the whole of the thinking of Mr Leach, in so far as it can be inferred from the evidential material, was suffused with the stereotypical assumption that Irish Travellers and English Gypsies cause disorder wherever they go. In my judgment this is a racial stereo typing of those with that ethnic origin.  It can be reduced to this crude proposition; wheneverIrish Travellers and English Gypsies go to public houses violent disorder is inevitable because that is how they behave.  In itself that is bad enough but it was accompanied by the false understanding that protesters from Dale Farm had been invited to attend the Conference and/or the organisers of the Conference were encouraging them to do so.  I can find no evidence to support any such understanding.  But even if that had been a correct understanding there would still have been embedded in it more or less the same assumption, namely that those who had protested violently at Dale Farm would inevitably repeat that behaviour in the different context of a public house because that is how Irish Travellers and English Gypsies behave.

150. The actual implementation of this ad hoc policy devised by Mr Leach differed from what he had discussed with Mr Dushku [the senior security officer involved].  Mr Leach had given no instructions about evaluating which delegates might be admitted and which excluded; he merely required large groups to be excluded.  I have found that the doormen attempted to exclude everybody who emanated from the Resource Centre, although I accept that they may not have been entirely consistent in their approach… But I do not think that this difference in implementation meant that the security team were acting outside the authority of their principal, the Defendant.  Generally they had the Defendant’s authority to keep the premises safe and secure.  They were called in by the Defendant to deal with the perceived security risk emanating from the Resource Centre and the ’ravellers’ Conference.  The fact that Mr Leach gave instruction about not admitting large groups does not seem to me to circumscribe the discretion, which Mr Dushku told me, the security team exercised as to who could or could not enter the Coronet.  I do not regard it as a departure from their authority to keep the premises safe and secure that they decided to exclude all who came from the Resource Centre…I have reached the conclusion that the Defendant was responsible for the acts of its agents, namely the members of the security team. 

This is an extremely important Judgment on the question of race discrimination as it applies to Irish Travellers and Romani Gypsies especially in confirming that an organisation can take a claim and that non-Gypsies and Travellers who are discriminated against because of “association” with Gypsies and Travellers can also take a claim.

The Barristers for the Claimants were Marc Willers QC and Owen Greenhall of Garden Court Chambers and instructing solicitors were Howe & Co.


Total Attachments: 1

Wetherspoons Judgment (3 MB)