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Chinese restaurant must let in guide dog

A blind man has won a ground-breaking legal ruling after he was barred from taking his guide dog into a Chinese restaurant.

Leigh Hutchings, 44, was stopped from eating in the restaurant in his home town where he had gone for 25 years after a new owner took over the business.

Mr Hutchings, of Watford, Hertfordshire, took Andrew D'Cruz to court and secured the first mandatory injunction against a restaurant owner under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). Mr D'Cruz, could now be imprisoned if he refuses to allow Mr Hutchings into the restaurant.

Mr Hutchings and the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), who backed the case, hailed the ruling yesterday as a victory for the blind with guide dogs, who suffer widespread discrimination.

Mr Hutchings said: "I did this for other guide dog owners. I wouldn't want anyone to go to prison for such a stupid thing but this was for others who don't have the strength of personality to go through with something like this."

The problems started when Mr Hutchings went into the restaurant after Mr D'Cruz took over. He said that he had to "argue his way in".

His guide dog, Frankie, sat under the table while he ate, he said.

He was banned the second time he tried to eat with a friend at the Imperial Garden Chinese Restaurant in August last year after Mr D'Cruz cited environmental health concerns. Mr Hutchings said that was the third occasion in 10 days in which he had been asked to leave a restaurant or pub because of a guide dog.

At the hearing at Watford County Court on 26 August, Mr D'Cruz was also ordered to pay Mr Hutchings £900.

Catherine Casserly from the RNIB said: "It sends a powerful message to service providers of any sort that they breach the DDA at their peril."

Mr D'Cruz was not available for comment.