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Deaf mums win Little Mix concert case

22 September 2021

Three Deaf mothers have won a landmark case after gig promoters working for the band Little Mix refused to provide BSL interpreters.

Three years ago, on 1 September 2017, Cate and her friends Megan and Emily went to the Little Mix event at the South of England Showground as part of a birthday treat, this turned out to be the start of an unprecedented legal battle.

Cate’s Mum Sally Reynolds, and her friends Mums, Victoria Nelson and Sarah Cassandro are Deaf, they were only able to follow part of the event, and only after issuing an application for an injunction in the County Court. The Little Mix events promoter refused to accept that British Sign Language (BSL) Interpreters were reasonably required, and when challenged with legal action threatened the families with costs liabilities of over £100,000.00.

Last week, Judge Avent in the Central London County Court handed down a Judgment which criticised the behaviour of the LHG Live (the company changed its name to Live in the UK and is owned by Liz Hobbs) and found them guilty of unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act.

The Judgment makes it clear that service providers are required to provide Sign Language Interpreters for Deaf service users.

Commenting on the success of the case, Sally Reynolds said: “We are all extremely delighted with the outcome of this legal challenge. The three of us wanted the same access to the event that everyone else had. The cost of the Interpreter was minuscule to Liz Hobbs’s team, but her response to our request was so hostile that we had no option but to ask the Court for a ruling.

“Over the life of this case, Victoria, Sarah, and I, have put up with criticism, ignorance and threats from the defence legal team. Thanks to Judge Avent, we feel thoroughly vindicated for bringing legal action. We are also so pleased that Judge Avent in his Decision recognised our tenacity in seeing this legal challenge through. This was always a team effort; we never gave up in pushing for a legal outcome and we could not have achieved this without each other’s unwavering support.

“We hope that this ruling will empower Deaf people who want access to services, without them having to go through lengthy discussions or seek out legal action.

“We are aware of the barriers that Deaf people face on a daily basis, when trying to access services, so we recognise that achieving a positive outcome in this case provides immense benefit to the Deaf Community. Our hope was always that the trial outcome would provide a legal safety net that Deaf people may use in the years to come. The release of Judge Avent's decision confirms that we were discriminated against and that LHG Live should have agreed to provide a BSL interpreter at the point of request.

“We would like to personally thank Chris Fry our solicitor for taking on this case and Catherine Casserley our barrister for her consistent detailed approach. Our thanks also go to CrowdJustice and all of our supporters, who helped us to raise the funds needed to cover our legal costs. We thank Limping Chicken for their excellent media coverage during the trial this summer. We would also like to thank Marie Pascall from Performance Interpreting, who continues to work hard in raising BSL awareness within the entertainment industry. And last, but not least, we thank all of our amazing supporters, along with family and friends, who have travelled this journey with us over the past four years, we are immensely grateful to you all.”

Chris Fry, a disability rights lawyer acted on behalf of Sally, Victoria, and Sarah, he recently succeeded in a claim against the Government for failing to provide BSL interpreters through the Covid pandemic. Adding to Sally’s comments, Chris said:

“Being Deaf doesn’t mean you should expect second-best service. I hope that this decision will help people who use BSL as their first language and that they will see that change is possible with the right legal help and support. I would like to thank Judge Avent for his careful and important decision, Catherine Casserley for her expert, astute and caring assistance and Sally, Victoria and Sarah for giving me the opportunity to represent them.”

Gideon Feldman, Head of Programmes for the live event accessibility charity Attitude is Everything, said: “Promoters and event organisers budget for crew, artists, sound systems and security (amongst other things) when putting on shows, and we hope that following this case all promoters will budget for access requirements.  Live music should be accessible for everyone and we urge all event organisers to seek expert advice to ensure that it is.”