Wednesday, March 19, 2008

More Wetherspoons nonsense

Aaargh. Now I'm angry. I've just spoken to someone from the police licensing department, who in fairness left a message for me last week. I didn't get it, but that's talktalk for you.

The police have spoken to the manager who gives a different version of events to me. He is insisting that I was asked to leave to comply with licensing laws and that by the time he forced us to leave the pub had to be cleared to comply with the law.

I attempted to explain to the police officer that the issue was with Disability Discrimination laws and that they provide for reasonable adjustments to be made, and given that it is not unreasonable to allow someone to sit safely whilst a crowd clears that the DDA should apply. The policeman insisted he knew nothing about that and when I asked him if there was a police department within this region who deal with disability crimes he said he didn't know. He insists it is not a police matter.

The policeman seemed to think I would want the manager sacked. I don't, I just don't want him to think it is in any way acceptable to behave in such a manner. The reason I complained was to try and prevent similar events. To my mind training in disability awareness (as well as how to communicate without screaming at people) would be the appropriate outcome.

I'm now more aware that wetherspoons are in the wrong because of the way they continue to respond to this. A 'without prejudice' letter is supposed to mean the writer is preventing their correspondence from being seen by a court, and to use it in this manner shows me that is where wetherspoons expect this to end up. The police also suggested, rather blithely I 'get a lawyer', which for anyone of average means in this situation would be unlikely, the costs being prohibitive. They also suggested that I get in touch with the area manager of wetherspoons directly.

Whilst I appreciate all the suggestions about contacting the media, I'm deeply reluctant to do that for all sorts of reasons, not least because that should not be the only recourse to a satisfactory resolution. I also don't want the attention.

I'm not sure what, if anything I will do next, but I do know this. What should have been a simple apology and assurance this kind of situation wouldn't happen again has ended up making me feel as hurt, angry and abused as I did when the incident first happened. I feel utterly powerless in my circumstances to go up against a company like wetherspoons with all their resources who are capable and prepared to manipulate the facts to suit them whilst knowing they are in the wrong. The whole point of Disability Discrimination law was to prevent such incidents happening and to empower those in situations it has happened to. Overwhelmingly I have felt that the police do not understand that is the main issue, and when pointed out to them they don't care and don't have the training to understand this is equal to any other discriminatory crime. After all, if that manager had screamed racial or sexual abuse the police would be on to it like a shot. Disability it seems really doesn't matter and I am left in no doubt about that.


wordsmith_for_hire said...

I really hate to have to say this but although the DDA was clearly breached, unfortunately it's not a crime. Disability crime does not exist on the statute books and the DDA was always intended to be challenged in the civil courts on a case-by-case basis. That's why the police are not interested - it's simply not in their remit. Depressing, I know.

You have two options at this stage. One is to use the press, as others have suggested. I can appreciate your reluctance to be the centre of attention but I can assure you that the negative PR Wetherspoons would receive would probably have a very beneficial effect in terms of helping other people with disabilities too.

Your second recourse is to contact the Disability Rights Commission. The DRC is there to advise and oversee compliance with the DDA. They are extremely helpful (I used them a couple of years ago when I was discriminated against) and got terrific advice from them. It's certainly worth giving them a call to talk your experience over and see if they can suggest any other alternatives for action.

Good luck, bendy girl.

Casdok said...

I can totally understand your anger.
Why is raising awarness so difficult?

LceeL said...

What wordsmith said. And Casdok too.

Jim said...

Hmmm I know licensing laws are different here in Scotland than they are in England, but up here the manager would have been called in front of the licensing board (I'm Chairman of Angus Licensing Board).

Quoting licensing laws at you regarding when the pub should be clear etc is merely an excuse in my view and no-one should have batted an eye-lid that you may have left a few minutes late under the circumstances.

I don't think you should let this go BG. From what you say, this is an appalling incident and one that should not be repeated.

I'd keep pushing this. Unfortunately, all of the free legal addvice I could have got you is in Scots law so its no use to you.


Mary said...

At this point, if it was me, I would drop it, not because of thinking they are in the right or anything but because I can't see how much further it can really go unless you're in the mood for a fight and prepared to put a LOT of time, energy and resources into it.

They have been informed that the manager's behaviour was unacceptable.
They have lost customers in terms of you, your friends, your blog readers and so on.

They can't admit any wrongdoing or liability without opening themselves up to being sued to buggery and back.

If you have the time on your hands, maybe demand to know what their "appropriate action" that they say they took was, or put the wind up them by saying that you are seeking legal advice.

But for me, personally, this would be about the limit of the time and attention I would give them.

kingmagic said...

Lil sis...think like an adult and take the only course of action left.

Go along to the wetherspoons place and at some time go to the loo. Then proceed to block all the toilets with masses of paper!

Wedge all the taps on full and put the plugs in the sinks!

Or...back at the food table, superglue all the menus together and superglue the salt and pepper together for good effect!

Or...confront the manager and whilst quietly talking to him dislocate something and scream out "Don't hit me!" Then scream for help as loud as you can!

These are my adult suggestions.

I am getting better but the tablets are difficult to swallow!

Big Bro xx

Emma said...

Love Big Bro's answer but don't give up darl...xx

steph said...

Mary and I are singing from the same hymn sheet on this one.

I'm totally with you on principle and especially as regards your views about not resorting to using the media, but I would be concerned that you'll end up being hurt further.

I have to admit though, kingmagic's adult suggestions did make me smile a lot :-D

Unixman said...

Wordsmith is absolutely right: unlike in some countries, the DDA is seen as a civil rather than a criminal affair and as such plod was within their rights to walk off. Which leaves bad publicity as your main weapon: both on this blog and elsewhere. I totally understand your position concerning the press but I would suggest that you reconsider: frankly bad publicity is still the best tactic for you .....

fi said...

Go to the Disability Rights Commission as suggested. In Northern Ireland we have Disability Action which I thought was UK wide, but apparently not. At the same time I would not lose sleep or spend too much energy on this, it's simply not worth it as you will be the only one ending up annoyed and frustrated at the lack of empathy and understanding some people have.

cogidubnus said...

Open letter to the media (which includes TV companies), with cognisant copies to the Disability Rights Commission and to Wetherspoons...costs you a few first class stamps...costs them a whole lot of anxiety...hold your nerve brave one!

Elaine said...

Interestingly enoug, the little medic

had a similar run in with Weatherspoons, with a similarly unsatisfactory response.

Should we be on a boycott Weatherspoons mission?

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Wordsmith: my terrible wording there I'm afraid, as I wrote the post I was thinking that if the manager had abused someone because of their race, religion or sexual orientation not only would the police have had to act, but in fairness, they would have understood the need to. As it's disability and as you say DDA is civil it has (in my view) enabled exactly this kind of 'crime' to continue. Thanks for the advice, BG x

Jim: Funnily enough when I spoke to the licensing authority I asked them exactly that, explaining that I had been advised that was the case in Scotland. I was told they had no power unless the licensee was convicted of a criminal offence. I'm not sure if that is strictly speaking correct or if I was being fobbed off by them too. My local authority being one of the worse rated in the UK. Thanks for the advice. BG

Mary and Steph: I'm inclined to feel that way atm, but that could be for other reasons. Sigh!

Big Bro: Now that I am loving! Want to come help?! lil sis x

Unixman: TY, I know. I just have this fear of being represented as 'poor lil crip girl' by the media. Wrong isn't it?!

Fi: Exactly

Cogi: I know, I know you're right, it's just. The media. Ugh.

Cas, lceel, and Emma: TY x

Elaine: it does seem that way, I went and read those posts, thank you BG x

Marla said...

Very frustrating indeed. Hang in there.

wordsmith_for_hire said...

Bendy Girl, I know, I know, it sucks. Racism, ageism, etc all criminal now, but hey, if it's only disability it's up to you to pursue a discrimination case through the civil courts... Sigh. I can't complain too much, any DDA is better than no DDA, after all.

If you want help dealing with the media, let me know. It's my job, after all, and I'll happily hand-hold for you while you do it. And I know disability law almost backwards. You know how to get hold of me so do give me a shout if I can help. I really do think you should blow this one open in the press. Wetherspoons is a big company with branches everywhere - it will be a tough lesson for them to learn when they get bad PR. xxx

Jim said...

BG, what they say is true strictly speaking, but a case like this would certainly have called for the licensee to be in front of the board for a strong word. I wouldn't have hesitated to have torn strips of him or her to be honest.

I'm sorry your local authority do not seem to be prepared to do the same.


bittersweet me said...

am just catching up. How frustrating for you ...

mr_colt said...

Unfortunatly the DRC has now been incorporated into the all encompassing "Equality and Human Rights Comission."

The huge amount of public legal information and judgements that were previously avalaible from the DRC site have been replaced with 3-4 html pages of basic DDA info most of us will already know anyway.

As such the "Disability" department is tiny in comparision to the rest of the organisation and they generally seem more interested on pursuing other issues likely due to the fact criminal law is easier to enfore than civil law.

That being said; I would still give them a ring. They are the people tasked by the Government to enforce the DDA including through legal action. They have taken DDA cases to civil court before now. Broadly speaking they have the power to make big companies take action just through writing them a letter. The corporations do not want the negative PR or hassle after all.

Best of Luck.

Spence Kennedy said...

This family certainly won't be going into a Wetherspoons in future - and that's got to be worth a fair bit over the years!
Good luck with taking it further. It's so great that you can get such informed advice from everyone.
If it were me, I think I'd probably weigh up the further anxiety caused by pursuing the case with the probable outcome and write the whole thing off to experience. But it def sucks, and I can understand you fighting on.

Auntie Jane said...

Oh Bendy, I am sorry you are having so much trouble. Please be strong and take the advice most have given you... You have a friend in Wordsmith. Take him up on it.

I would go public with this. Write to the Media, local papers, local TV etc.

I do wish you luck.
All the best, Jane

Samantha said...

I don't really have much to add but I think Wordsmith at the top is really on to something.

Wetherspoons is a dive anyway. I'll boycott mine if you like :)

wordsmith_for_hire said...

Auntie Jane, Wordsmith is a Her!

Vi said...

don't give up mate. I think you may have to resort going to the media. This really is NOT ON! Make a stand!!!!

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

All we were doing was having a quiet sip, after all.

Unixman said...

Look on the bright side ... they don't even keep the beer well ;-)

Anonymous said...


ive visited weatherspoons up and down the country and the thing that really cheeses me off is they time and time again serve regular coke when asked for "diet coke", this is a serious issue for a diabetic, and the number of times we have found out when its too late are ridiculous

just cannot trust them to vend the right stuff

no one

Complex Girl said...

I can understand your frustration BG, and would definitely advise you contact a disability rights organisation as suggested.

That said, I have come to realise (in my oh so wise and aged years, ahem!!) that sometimes the fight is more wearing that winning the war, and that bastard big corporations don't always have to adhere to the same morals and principles the rest of the world does.

If you're willing to fight, and you think that would give you what you want then go for it - if you're unsure then continuing would seem likely to end in further frustration for you, so weigh it all carefully.

Good luck either way x

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Thank you all for your excellent advise (especially you wordsmith)
I'm still undecided on how much further if at all I want to pursue this, like some say it is about personal cost.
I'll certainly keep you posted on what I do decide. BG x

transfattyacid said...

The DDA is a waste of time - one only has to look at the current political football surrounding invalidity benefits to see just how toothless the act is.

How can it not be discrimination for politicians to declare that a centain percentage of disabled people are in fact making fraudulant claims?

I fully understand your frustration on this matter, and personally think that the fault lies in the careerists who claim to speak on behalf of disabled people, but really do little more than feather their own nests.