Bride cannot sue police for ruining her reception

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The Independent Online
A BRIDE whose wedding reception was cancelled after police warned the owners of the venue it was likely to end in trouble cannot claim damages against the officers, the Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.

Lisa Hallam had wanted to hold her wedding at the historic Pittville Pump Rooms in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, in August 1997. Her mother, Deborah Smith, had paid the deposit and made arrangements for 150 guests.

But police warned the council, who owned the property, that up to 1,500 gypsy people could converge on the listed building, and that there was ill-feeling between some of the families which could lead to disorder.

Chief Inspector Kevin Lambert, of Gloucestershire Police, told Cheltenham Borough Council officials that he "viewed with concern the prospect of a wedding involving the Smith family" whowere "well-known" to police.

PC David Avery warned the council that if the wedding went ahead, the police would need to take precautions against any public disorder.

Council officials imposed stringent conditions on the wedding, including the provision that entry to the Pump Rooms should be by ticket only. Lord Justice Judge said in a ruling yesterday: "Hardly surprising the mother and daughter were both very distressed."

At Bristol County Court in June, Judge Rutherford awarded pounds 5,000 in damages to Mrs Hallam, 19, and pounds 2,500 to her mother, under the Race Relations Act, but turned down their claims against PC Avery and Chief Inspector Lambert.

An appeal, backed by the Commission for Racial Equality, was brought against the county court judge's ruling that the policemen were not responsible for the decision made by the council.

But Lord Justice Judge ruled yesterday that there had been no finding that the police knew that the mother and daughter would be treated less favourably than anyone else when they informed the council of their public-order fears.

Lady Justice Hale added that although the police were "not as meticulous as they might have been" in the accuracy of their information and had made stereotypical assumptions, these were not unlawful acts under the Race Relations Act.