Butlin's 'evicted' deaf partygoers

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The Independent Online
BUTLIN'S FACES mass legal action after it sent in security guards to evict nearly 60 deaf guests from their chalets and order them from one of its holiday camps. In a legal action by 28 of the guests, it is alleged that security officers entered chalets, pulling out electricity fuses and cutting off heating and water supplies at the Butlin's camp at Pwllheli, North Wales.

Butlin's decided to order out the deaf guests after a disturbance in one of the camp's nightclubs on New Year's Eve prompted complaints from other holidaymakers. It was later discovered that a chalet being used by deaf guests had been seriously vandalised.

But the litigants said they had booked separately in small groups and were not linked to those involved in the disturbances, other than by virtue of their deafness. Carl Miller, one of the 58 evicted, said: "I asked the Butlin's management if they would have thrown every black person off the camp because of the actions of one or two. I was sickened by their attitude.

"For a holiday company which advertises that it is so disability-friendly, their lack of deaf awareness and disgraceful attitude is totally appalling."

Parties of deaf people had travelled to the holiday campfrom Hampshire, Middlesex, Leicester, Oxfordshire, the West Midlands and Surrey. Ironically, they said they opted to go to Butlin's because it had acquired a reputation for being considerate to people with disabilities.

Another of the deaf litigants, Kathryn Dolby, an administrative assistant with Walsall council, said she had enjoyed the New Year's Eve celebrations with her husband, Trevor, but woke up the next morning to the news that they were being made to leave. "The security came into the chalet and removed the electricity fuse. We had no choice but to leave," she said. "We felt angry and hurt."

Mrs Dolby said they had not even been in the Starbar nightclub at the time of the disturbance. "We don't know the people involved, or where they come from. We have never even met them," she said.

Also "upset and confused" was Michael Brickliffe, a deaf design enginee. He said: "All the security guards said was 'Out! Out! Out! All Deaf Out!' They ignored us when we asked for an explanation."

Solicitors Greene Deavin, of Leicester, are bringing the legal action against Butlin's, under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The claimants seek damages for breach of contract and discrimination as well as compensation for distress, discomfort and inconvenience.

James Strachan, chief executive of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, which is backing the legal claim, said the "blatant discrimination" demonstrated the need for the Government to set up a statutory body to enforce the Act.

But Butlin's said last night its actions had not been discriminatory. In a statement, it said: "Our security department received reports that a group of male and female deaf people, consisting of families from different parts of the country, were responsible for harassing other holidaymakers on New Year's Eve. This took the form of the sexual harassment of female guests, physical assaults and aggressiveness brought on by excess consumption of alcohol."

It accepted that the deaf people had made separate bookings but added: "It was clear during their stay that they constituted one large group who had planned to meet at the centre."