Blind man 'was banned from shop'
A BLIND man was stopped from entering a Suffolk shop with his guide dog by a verbally abusive manageress - who told him “you can't ******* well see, why do you want to come in here?”Ipswich County Court heard yesterday how retired bricklayer John Hammond was confronted by “screaming and shouting” Leona Bracey as he tried to enter a Felixstowe antiques shop with his dog Ingram.
A BLIND man was stopped from entering a Suffolk shop with his guide dog by a verbally abusive manageress - who told him “you can't ******* well see, why do you want to come in here?”
Ipswich County Court heard yesterday how retired bricklayer John Hammond was confronted by “screaming and shouting” Leona Bracey as he tried to enter a Felixstowe antiques shop with his dog Ingram.
Mr Hammond, who was wearing a yellow sash identifying him as a guide dog user, was blocked by a furious Bracey at the Cobwebs Antique Centre last September.
The 61-year-old, from March in Cambridgeshire, was in the area on a holiday when the incident happened.
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He told the civil hearing: “I was walking with my dog and having a saunter around. I don't really look at things anymore, but I still take part.
“At this particular shop I went to the door and I was confronted by someone shouting at me. I got to the entrance when a voice said 'you're not bringing that dog in here'.”
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Mr Hammond, who has been blind for about three years through diabetes, added: “I explained it was a guide dog and she said she didn't care.
“She said she was not having him in the shop and what if he breaks things. She was screaming and shouting at me.
“She said she didn't even want me in the shop and that I wasn't the sort of person who would buy anything from her shop.
“She came forward screaming and shouting - she said if I didn't go away she would do something to me that she would regret later.”
The court also heard from Mr Hammond's wife Eileen - who was with him at the time - and she told how one witness said she was shocked at the “absolutely disgusting” way her husband was treated.
Sister-in-law Kathleen Maycroft, who was in the shop during the incident, added: “I did say to the lady that the dog was a guide dog and explained that if anything was broken I would pay for it, but basically she went off on one.
“Because I've got a short fuse I said 'you can stuff your shop - if my brother-in-law can't come in here then I don't want to.' By then the language was getting a bit ripe.”
A witness to the incident, who wrote a letter to the court, said Bracey told Mr Hammond “you can't ******* well see, why do you want to come in here?”
In response to the disability discrimination allegation, Bracey, from Western Avenue, Felixstowe, claimed she was not abusive to Mr Hammond and allowed him into the shop on the proviso that if the dog broke anything the party would have to pay for it.
She added of Mr Hammond: “He was shouting at me saying that I should not have a shop and this that and the other.
“The man then left the shop, went into the street and was shouting 'someone help me, I have been refused entry into the shop. I went to calm the situation down but he would not have any of it.”
Bracey also said she both phoned and wrote to Mr Hammond to apologise, offering him a 25% shop discount and money offers of up to £500 - all of which were refused.
During cross-examination, shop owner Kirk Bracey, who also attended the hearing, claimed his wife “doesn't shout or swear” and accused Hammond of bringing the case to court for money.
But District Judge Patrick Bazley White found in favour of Mr Hammond, awarding damages and costs of £1,834.
He said: “I'm quite satisfied that the claimant is entitled to damages and was hurt and distressed as a result of the defendant's conduct. The claimant lost confidence in the use of his guide dog, which is particularly important.”
After the case, Mr Hammond said: “She showed no remorse. I was very shocked when it happened - I had never encountered anything like that before.
“It sets you back a tremendous amount and I'm always on guard now, waiting for it to happen again.”
He added: “I'm hoping disabled people who may have been treated like me will take encouragement from this and not let people push them around. You've got to stand up for yourself.”
Jonathan Toye, co-ordinator of the West Norfolk Disability Information Service, who represented Mr Hammond, said: “It shouldn't come to this - people should be aware that they can't treat others like that.”