Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006

'No Bigots Allowed'

By Order of the Management

For years pubs have been able to hang up doorsigns declaring “No Travellers Allowed” but, after a test case in the Court of Appeal in 1989, it was finally declared to be a racially discriminatory act. This is the story of an important precedent and of how it was nearly defeated.

Squall 5, Oct/Nov 1993, pp. 16-17.

The case centred around a pub in Hackney, known as the ‘Cat and Mutton’, that had a sign hanging in its doorway saying, “Sorry No Travellers Allowed”. Pubs used to get away with “No Gypsys” signs, but after the Race Relations Act in 1976, this had been deemed unlawful. Now, pubs like the ‘Cat and Mutton’ only displayed signs that used the more general term ‘traveller’, hoping to skirt around the letter of the law.

The Commission for Racial Equality took Mr Dutton, the manager of the pub, to the county court citing Section 29 of the Race Relations Act This section states: “It is unlawful to publish or to cause to be published an advertisement which indicates, or might reasonably be understood as indicating, an intention by a person to do an act of discrimination.”

‘Advertisement’ is widely construed in law to include signs and notices, catalogues, price lists and circulars. The Commission for Racial Equality put forward a case that the notice constituted a denial of access to goods and services on racial grounds. Gypsys are already acknowledged within the law to be a racially distinct group and the CRE’s case proposed that the word ‘traveller’ was synonymous with the word ‘Gypsy’ and that the notice was thus a discrimination against a racially defined group, which was unlawful.

When the case reached Westminster County Court in 1987, the judge ruled that the word ‘traveller’ was not synonymous with the word ‘Gypsy’, as it referred to anyone who led a nomadic life. It was therefore not a specific racial group that could be identified for the purposes of the Race Relations Act and thus the sign was not unlawful.

However, the Commission for Racial Equality did not give up and took the case to the Court of Appeal in 1988, where they achieved a far more satisfactory result Although the appeal judges agreed with the original judge that the word ‘traveller’ was not synonymous with the word ‘Gypsy’ they decided to hear a case for indirect discrimination.

The argument went something like this: Given that, in order to comply with the notice on the pub door you have to be a non-traveller, would this mean that fewer Gypsys could enter as a result? The answer is of course yes.

The judges then decided that ‘Gypsys’ were indeed a racial group, with a distinct identity and therefore that such notices constituted a form of indirect discrimination which they considered unlawful according to the Race Relations Act.

This court case put a legal end to the discriminatory signs on British pub doors that have hung there for so long, most of us took them for granted. It also fortified the legal precedent of considering Gypsys as a group with distinct racial origins, deserving of the protection afforded by the Race Relations Act

Now someone go tell Bowen Wells and his fellow blue rabids the news.