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Deaf prisoner awarded damages after discrimination

A prisoner who became deaf whilst in prison has been awarded compensation after being unfairly discriminated against by the Ministry of Justice.

Posted on 24 March 2016

A prisoner with a hearing disability has received compensation following the settlement of his claim for discrimination he suffered whilst in prison.

The prisoner, known as “Mr A”, became deaf whilst in prison. His deafness continued to worsen over time. Even with the help of hearing aids, he faced significant difficulties in being able to participate in important parts of prison life.

These difficulties included using the telephone, attending visits, hearing announcements, participating in education and work, and speaking to other prisoners and staff. This caused him upset and isolation.

Mr A repeatedly raised his difficulties with the prison. Because he had not been deaf before being in prison, he did not know what could be done to help him with his difficulties.

Therefore, when raising his difficulties, he also requested that he be assessed by a deaf specialist, and then be provided with any appropriate aids or services. However, despite this, very little was done by the prison to address his difficulties.

Mr A instructed Benjamin Burrows, a lawyer in the prison law team at Leigh Day, to bring a claim for discrimination.

The claim was brought under the Equality Act 2010 and the Human Rights Act 1998 and alleged that the Ministry of Justice had unlawfully discrimination against Mr A by failing to take reasonable steps to avoid the substantial disadvantage he was suffering from.

Mr A’s claim was settled shortly after its commencement, with him receiving compensation, as well as being assessed by a deaf specialist and being provided with appropriate aids and services.

Benjamin Burrows said of the settlement: “I am pleased that Mr A’s difficulties have finally been resolved. However, it is frustrating that this was only done after a claim had been brought and that this is one of several such claims we have had to bring.

“The experiences of the deaf prisoners in these claims have been largely same, but disappointingly so have been the responses from the prisons. It seems clear that lessons are simply not being learnt.”

Mr A’s claim was funded by the Legal Aid Agency, and he was represented by Raj Desai, a barrister at Matrix Chambers.