Legal advice

What if someone wears an offensive tee shirt in your pub?

By Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

What if someone wears an offensive tee shirt in your pub?

Related tags: Human rights

As the case of the offensive Hillsborough tee shirt shows, operators struggle with where to draw the line with unacceptable customer behaviour - and when to act. Legal experts Poppleston Allen offers advice.

A recent and rather disturbing story in the press has once again highlighted the issue of how much autonomy operators have over their own premises and the implications of actions by customers visiting your premises.

You may have seen the reports of a man who was sitting in a beer garden of a pub in Worcestershire wearing a T-shirt featuring offensive comments regarding the Hillsborough disaster.

A photograph of the T-shirt was shared on social media and shortly went viral, leading to criticism of the management of the pub. Some Twitter users demanded to know why the customer was not made to leave immediately with the manager being forced to defend himself and explain that he was busy working inside the pub at the time and the man was barred from the premises as soon as he became aware of the T-shirt. Conversely, the manager was reportedly faced with a number of phone calls to the premises criticising his actions in barring the customer.

The police were called and the customer was charged with displaying threatening and abusive writing likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

In this situation, it is easy to see why operators can struggle with deciding where to draw the line in terms of their customers’ unacceptable behaviour. We live in a society where free speech is recognised as a fundamental human right, so how do you balance this or other legal ‘rights’ against your ability to refuse service or ask someone to leave your premises if you deem their behaviour to be unacceptable?

Related topics: Licensing law

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