Haverhill Town Council Court Case Hearing
Posted By: Haverhill resident
Date: 16 Sep 2006 at 18:03
People will probably be aware that Haverhill Town Council has an unfortunate habit of discriminating against disabled people on a regular basis at the Haverhill Arts Centre.
The latest incident involved a disabled person who relies on an electric wheelchair to get around and requires assistance from others. The person in question is fighting cancer, is disabled and is elderly.
Evidently the person was in a group of disabled users who had prebooked a seat to see a show at the Haverhill Arts Centre. The individual made it clear they were disabled and required seating accommodation that reflected their needs.
When the disabled person attended the Haverhill Arts Centre they were put into a seat that was not the one they had prebooked. The seat was not appropriate to someone who was disabled, and the Haverhill Arts Centre staff caused a bit of commotion in accommodating this person in the inappropriate seating causing unwanted attention that the individual felt embarrassing.
There was a health and safety threat to both the disabled user and other users in the Haverhill Arts Centre as the individual was left blocked in and trapped. In the event of fire it would appear such a situation could have put the disabled user and others in danger.
There was empty seats at the front of the theatre that could have accommodated this disabled user. The disabled user decided they did not want to be treated like a second class citizen by the staff of the Haverhill Arts Centre and wanted to leave. The staff persuaded the disabled customer to stay and promised to find an alternative place to sit. The disabled person was then reallocated next to the drum kit, which was deafening and caused them a headache. The disabled person then left the venue after experiencing this further distress.
The disabled customer wrote three times to Haverhill Town Council for an apology over the distress they suffered. The Haverhill Town Council refused to apologise or address any of the complaints of the individual.
The individual involved the Disability Rights Commission who offered a free service of mediation between the Haverhill Town Council and the disabled person. There was a full town council meeting called in which the Haverhill Town Clerk recommended that the Haverhill Town Councillors refuse this offer of mediation. The Haverhill Town Clerk advised the town councillors there was no case to answer and that the disabled person would lose the case at great cost to themselves. The town councillors, except for a certain Cllr Graham went with the advice of the Town Clerk and rejected the offer of free mediation. The newspapers had reported on this case and I then became aware of it through the media and from town council agendas and minutes.
The disabled person then issued a letter of claim followed by a court summons. The Town Council referred the letter to their insurers, but it appears such a situation was not covered by the insurance. The Town Clerk then fed information into the media along the lines that there was no case to answer, and what appears to be a scare tactic that the town council would recover all its legal costs from the disabled person.
For a court case to proceed fairly all parties must exchange any documents and information they will use in court well in advance. It appears that the Haverhill Town Council refused to divulge all information that it was going to use in court to the disabled person. The disabled person especially wanted to have a seating plan of the theatre. After writing to the Haverhill Town Council and being refused this information the disabled person went back to Cambridge County Court.
The Haverhill Town Clerk was summoned to appear in court to explain why he was not handing information over to the disabled person. One of the things that the Haverhill Town Clerk alleged was that the court summons had not been handed in on time and therefore there was no case to answer. The judge was not impressed and told the Haverhill Town Clerk along the lines that whilst the Town Clerk may order councillors around, in his court, the judge decided things and not the Haverhill Town Clerk. The judge said that as far as he was concerned the court summons was in on time and that was that. The Town Clerk went on to say that the relevant legislation was not in force for the alleged discrimination. the judge said that this would be an issue for the future court hearing, but he required that all documents that the Town Clerk would be using in the case to be handed over to the disabled person. The Town Clerk after feeding information to the local media about this and a previous disabled discrimination case wanted no press to be involved. The judge was not impressed and denied the Town Clerk his request, considering the Town Clerks previous hypocritical behaviour.
the Town Clerk appeared to then allege that the County court staff had discriminated against the disabled person in seating accommodation in the court, by this time I think the judge had had enough of the Town Clerk and did not even bother commenting.
The Town Clerk claimed he had an expert witness from Optua who he would be using in the court. The Town Clerk did not want to divulge the details of the expert witness until the court case, the judge rejected the Town Clerk's wishes and ordered him to give the information on the "expert witness" to the disabled person.
the latest is that the disabled person is writing to Optua on the advice of the judge giving their side of the story and asking for comment. It is possible that Optua has been misled by the Haverhill Town Clerk and does not even know they are an "expert witness".
What is surprising is why the Haverhill Town Council has not obtained the services of a solicitor to deal with this case. I have asked a Haverhill Town councillor if any funding has been set aside, or even if councillors know about this court case. It appears councillors are not aware of all that is going on and I suspect that officers on the Haverhill Town Council have been keeping things under wraps. As a council taxpayer I am concerned that this case is going to cost the Town Council a fortune and I am hoping that the council staff and councillors will be paying for this case out of their own pockets if they lose.