Gay couple win £5k after public 'outing'

A GAY couple have won £5,000 compensation after an estate agent wrote the word “lesbians” in an advert for their house.

Russell Claydon

A GAY couple have won £5,000 compensation after an estate agent wrote the word “lesbians” in an advert for their house.

Suzanne Richards, 36, and Sarah Dobinson, 44, said they feared for their lives after the revelation appeared on a popular property website.

The Bury St Edmunds branch of estate agents, Jackson-Stops & Staff, listed the word “lesbians” alongside pictures of the inside of their £640,000 house.


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The word appeared in small print at the bottom of the internet advert at www.rightmove.co.uk.

Ms Richards and Ms Dobinson, from the Bury St Edmunds area, said they were “shaking with disbelief” when they spotted the reference and immediately took the house off the market.

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The couple eventually reached a £5,000 out of court settlement with the estate agents after claiming they had breached discrimination laws.

Ms Richards told the EADT: “After about five days I was checking the listing because we had no interest from it and saw that instead of a reference being a mixture of numbers or letters, or referring to the property, we had the word “lesbians”.

“It was just awful. We were shaking with disbelief and horrified. I saw it first and I was wondering whether I was seeing things or on the right website.”

After a phone call to Jackson-Stops & Staff the listing was taken down with immediate effect but the couple still lived in fear of an attack.

“We had entrusted these people, welcomed them into the most intimate parts of our home and this was how they treated us.

“The repercussions of such actions could have been catastrophic - publicly linking our home address with our sexuality could have ruined our lives. We feel so strongly that nobody else should ever be treated like this again.”

She added there was currently a gap in the training that they wanted plugged to prevent such incidents ever occurring.

“We want this to never happen again. I am sure there are other companies out there not aware of the legislations and it should not take laws to make people treat each other fairly.”

Philip Gilbey a partner of Jackson-Stops & Staff estate agents, said: “From our perspective the incident was absolutely the sole actions of an individual which were regrettable and foolish.

“Unfortunately as an employer we have to take full responsibility but we cannot dictate everything they do.

“Any suggestion of institutional discrimination is categorically wrong. We took the property down off the website as soon as we realised what had happened and the employee was taken to a disciplinary tribunal and narrowly missed instant dismissal due to a previously completely unblemished record.”

He added: “We have consulted with the clients and agreed that on top of the training we already put on there will be an extra training course that they asked for.”

The couple's lawyers, Russell Jones & Walker, said the estate agent had settled the case before it came to court, with the couple receiving £5,000 as “injury to feelings” payment.

Ms Richards and Ms Dobinson said they have decided not to move house.

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