A GROUP of Irish Travellers are celebrating today after being awarded £3,000 each in damages from the owners of a pub where they were denied entry in 2011.
Following a long-running battle with JD Wetherspoon PLC, members of The Traveller Movement (formerly the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain) today received an apology from the pub chain, who have also pledged to review their “relevant policies, procedures and training”.
The incident arose on November 17, 2011, after the annual conference of The Traveller Movement charity, when members of the Travelling community were refused entry to The Coronet pub on the Holloway Road.
Members of the group, which included Travellers, English Romani Gypsies, a solicitor, a priest and a police inspector, were turned away by door staff at the pub because they had come from the nearby conference.
After strenuously fought legal proceedings, lasting over three years and culminating in a three-week trial at the end of 2014, Judge Hand QC gave judgment on the case today.
Judge Hand found that Wetherspoon’s actions were “suffused with the stereotypical assumption that Irish Travellers and English Gypsies cause disorder wherever they go”.
He added: “In my judgment this is racial stereotyping of those with that ethnic origin. It can be reduced to this crude proposition: whenever Irish Travellers and English Gypsies go to public houses violent disorder is inevitable because that is how they behave.”
JD Wetherspoon will now have to pay £3,000 damages to each Traveller and associates affected on the day – in a payout totalling £24,000.
The Traveller Movement have hailed the ruling as a seminal victory, with CEO Yvonne MacNamara, stating: “We are overjoyed with today’s decision. Justice has finally been done for those who were turned away from The Coronet pub because they were Travellers, or because they were associated with Travellers.”
She added: “In this day and age it is outrageous that a national pub chain like JD Wetherspoon can carry out such a blatant act of discrimination against members of the Gypsy and Traveller communities, their friends and colleagues.
“As a national charity who works to promote equality for Gypsies and Travellers across the country, we too often come across members of these communities being refused access to goods and services on the grounds of their ethnicity. We hope Justice Hand’s decision will mark a sea change in the unacceptably high levels of discrimination these communities experience.”
Following the ruling, Watherspoon chairman Tim Martin said: “Wetherspoon apologises to the eight individuals who were denied entry and for any upset and distress this caused to them. It is the first time that a claim of this nature has been brought against the company in the 35 years of its existence. In light of the judgment, though we have always been fully committed to operating our premises in a non-discriminatory way, we will undertake a full review of our relevant policies, procedures and training.”