Legal advice

What do the lawyers say about the Cornwall palsy discrimination dispute?

By Oli Gross

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Discrimination Gender

What do the lawyers say about the Cornwall palsy discrimination dispute?
Lawyers have advised how to avoid and deal with discrimination accusations after a Cornwall pub was criticised for refusing to serve a man who has facial palsy.

Alex Barker, from Coventry, visited Cutty Sark on Grove Place in Falmouth on 11 July, and was refused alcohol for being “intoxicated” despite only drinking one beer. Barker claims he was discriminated against, but Cutty Sark claims staff thought he was drunk.

The Publican Morning Advertiser’s ​legal specialists Poppleston Allen reassured that licensees are always entitled to refuse someone who is drunk.

Licensees should be aware that it is an offence for any service provider to discriminate against anybody by reason of their disability.  But this would not be the case if the person refusing the service did not know, and could not reasonably have been expected to know, that the person seeking the service had the disability.

Solicitor Andy Grimsey said: “But where there is any doubt or dispute it is vital that the situation is handled sensitively and that the facts are ascertained.”

The pub claims Barker stumbled on his way into the pub, and the decision was taken “out of a genuine concern for the safety and welfare of all our customers”.

“This was not out of any discrimination,” Cutty Sark said.

Barker posted a video on YouTube describing his experience.

“In 25 years I have never been refused a pint,” he said.

“I believe it is because I’m disabled and my face didn’t fit.”

He claims he returned to the pub the next day, but did not receive an apology.

Cutty Sark released a statement the following week apologising for any distress caused, but justifying the decision not to serve him.

Grimsey said complaints must be dealt with “politely and efficiently”.

Poppleston Allen advised staff training and awareness, with practical examples given, to avoid discrimination claims.

Sufferers of disfigurements are protected by the same laws as those discriminated against for race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender reassignment, Grimsey added.

Cutty Sark argues that staff have to make an instant decision over service, to ensure the safety of all customers based on their perception of the potential risk.

“We operate a zero tolerance policy against discrimination of any kind and will continue to do so,” the pub added.

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