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Our Equality work extends beyond disability rights into other Protected Characteristics. As one of the UK’s leading equality lawyers, Chris Fry reflects on a little known case he won almost 10 years ago which has the potential to advance rights in the LGBTQ community as well as disability.

As reported by the BBC in 2015, 

“A gay man has been awarded £7,500 in a landmark case after a member of shop staff made homophobic gestures at him.

Southend County Court heard the man had been subjected to months of gesturing by a staff member at Taylor Edwards locksmith in Shoeburyness.

The man, named only as “Tim”, brought an action against the shop and won.

It is thought to be the first time a business has been ordered to pay damages for discrimination that was entirely “non-verbal”.

“When Tim left the shop, the man serving him – Peter Edwards – blew a sarcastic kiss at him.

This was followed by about 20 similar mocking gestures when Tim was passing the shop and Mr Edwards was on a cigarette break”.

“Tim went on to bring an action against Taylor Edwards, alleging discrimination under the Equality Act, which prevents anyone supplying goods or services from discriminating against customers on a variety of grounds, including race, religion, disability and sexual orientation.

Even though Peter Edwards was on a work break outside the shop at the time of the gesturing, he was still deemed to be acting in the course of his employment.

“I issued this case to prevent future incidences of discrimination and/or homophobia occurring,” Tim said.

“I will be absolutely chuffed if this case prevents one person from carrying out a homophobic act in the future.”

At the time, almost 10 years ago, according to the charity Stonewall, there were 6,000 hate crimes against LGBT people in the UK but there were many that were likely to be unreported. Stonewall said that 75,000 young LGBT people were bullied each year simply because of who they are.

“In 2015 it is deeply worrying that many LGBT people still face persecution, harassment and discrimination whether verbal of non-verbal, simply for who they are, and that means that they are not able to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love,” said James Taylor, then head of campaigns at Stonewall.

According to Stonewall, almost 10 years on hate crime statistics released by the ONS reveal that England and Wales continues to become a less safe place for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people.

  • Hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation are up by 112% in the last five years.
  • Hate crimes based on sexual orientation and transgender identity are the most likely    to involve violence or threats of violence.

Statistics only provide a snapshot of the reality, with the vast majority of victims not reporting their experiences to the police. The Government’s own statistics suggest fewer than one in ten LGBTQ+ people report hate crimes or incidents.

What to Do if it Happens to You?

Evidence is key, and its really difficult to capture evidence in a spontaneous unexpected and high pressure situation. People will often deny allegations. If you can, obtain evidence by photos or videos, and follow them up with a direct complaint and request for CCTV footage.

You can make a complaint for direct discrimination and harassment under the Equality Act and make requests for awareness training and compensation. If you need help with how to complain, we can help you with some free advice, and an information pack about the legal process if you need to go that far. 

For further information on this please contact Chris Fry.

Chris Fry – Disability Rights

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