City lawyers win equality rights appeal

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Sheffield lawyers have won a key case at the Court of Appeal which could be significant for all disabled people.

A team from Sheffield Law Centre, on Joiner Street, Wicker, represented a profoundly deaf man whose home was raided three times for drugs in 2010 and 2011.

Police knew his condition from previous dealings with him.

But officers on the raids did not use qualified British Sign Language interpreters but made do with lip-reading, writing on pieces of paper and with the help of the man’s wife.

The man won his case of disability discrimination after the Master of the Rolls ruled that BSL was a separate language in its own right, used by a significant number of people.

The Master stressed that police must make reasonable adjustments for deaf people in general in advance, not dealing with situations as they arose.

He overruled the trial judge in the original case - though an overall guilty verdict was allowed to stand on the facts of the individual case.

Douglas Johnson, equality rights worker at Sheffield Law Centre, said: “It’s a very pleasing result. Although it didn’t result in financial compensation for the appellant, that wasn’t really what he was after.

“He is pleased that the police should now have to examine their own procedures. They must take steps to understand the needs of the deaf population as a whole.

“The judgement has helped to clarify the law and make it easier to apply in future cases, not just for deaf people but for any disabled person with a similar case.”

The ruling also said it was clear from equality legislation the intention was to put disabled people in a position as close as reasonably possible.