England: pub chain faces £1m bill after racially discriminating against gypsies and travellers

A pub chain has been handed a bill of nearly £1 million after it racially discriminated against gypsies and travellers by preventing them from entering one of its establishments.

Wetherspoon was given the fine after a historic ruling in which a judge held that a group of Irish travellers were discriminated against after they were refused entry to the pub and turned away.

Among those turned away from The Coronet in Islington in 2011 were a lawyer, priest and a policeman – they were all involved with the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain (ITMB), a charity which aims to integrate Irish travellers into Britain.

The group said that “the doormen told them that they were not allowing travellers or people from the traveller conference to enter”.

Another doorman appeared to say the group were barred from entering as a result of “problems after the traveller conference last year” and that the policy was “manager’s orders”.

However, the group were finally allowed entry to the pub – but only on the condition that the policeman, inspector Watson, kept an eye on them.

Judge John Hand QC yesterday ruled that the travellers had suffered discrimination, awarding each of them £3,000 in damages.

In total, the group received £24,000.

Wetherspoon faces a £1m bill, however, as it will probably have to pay the majority of the costs associated with the case.

Judge Hand said Wetherspoon’s thinking was “suffused with the stereotypical assumption that Irish travellers and English gypsies cause disorder wherever they go”.

He added: “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.”

The lawyer who was part of the group, Martin Howe, of Howe & Co, a law firm based in Middlesex said: “The last bastion of ‘acceptable racism’ has come crashing down.

“Shops, restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, clubs and pubs will now realise that treating gypsies and travellers as second-class citizens is an affront to their dignity that is no longer tolerated.”

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