Frustration as 'discrimination' test case adjourned

A LANDMARK court case that could influence how equality laws are followed in the future has been adjourned until next year – to the frustration of campaigners.

Disabled people from Darlington have brought a class action against Arriva North-East, claiming the bus company has discriminated against them.

The case hinges on Arriva’s ‘first come, first served’ policy for the designated disabled spaces on its buses.

At the moment, drivers are not trained to ask people occupying the disabled spaces – for example with shopping or pushchairs – to make way for wheelchair users wishing to board.

Judge Peter Bowers has heard evidence from disabled people who have had problems when trying to board Arriva buses in the region.

On Tuesday (December 4), he agreed to adjourn the case until February at the request of Arriva lawyers.

They had argued that the case presented by the claimants, who are represented by discrimination specialists Unity Law, was more extensive than they had been briefed for.

Judge Bowers – who was this week given an official reprimand by the Office for Judicial Complaints after saying it took “a huge amount of courage” for burglars to break into people’s homes – accepted Arriva’s call for an adjournment.

A spokeswoman for Unity Law described the move as “frustrating to the progress of the case”.

She said: “The case will continue into a further two-week hearing in February and we hope a decision will be made confirming that Arriva’s policy of refusing access to the wheelchair space if a pushchair or pram is in the way, will be overturned.”

Arriva will now have more time to call extra witnesses to answer the additional points raised by the other side.

The company has declined to comment on the case while it is ongoing.

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