Hotel owners 'set up' by gay couple who sued

A gay couple suing the Christian owners of a seaside hotel may have booked a double room as a "set-up", a court heard today.

Martyn Hall and his civil partner Steven Preddy, from Bristol, have lodged a claim for up to £5,000 in damages from Peter and Hazelmary Bull, alleging sexual orientation discrimination.



But the Bulls deny the claim under new equality laws, saying they have a long-standing policy of banning all unmarried couples - both heterosexual and gay - from sharing a bed at the Chymorvah Private Hotel in Marazion near Penzance, Cornwall.



Mr Bull, 70, and his wife, 66, say their policy - operated since they bought the hotel in 1986 - is based on their beliefs about marriage and not a hostility to sexual orientation.



Today, at Bristol County Court Bernie Quinn, who works at the hotel, hinted that Mr Preddy and Mr Hall's booking was a set-up.



Mr Quinn explained that gay rights organisation Stonewall had written to Mr and Mrs Bull a month earlier advising them of new equality legislation.



He told the court that hours before Mr Preddy had made a telephone booking in September 2008 he spoke to a "Mrs Preddy" regarding a double room.



The claimants' barrister, Catherine Casserley, asked Mr Quinn: "Are you suggesting this claim was a set-up?"



Mr Quinn agreed and added: "It is not beyond the realms of possibility. I have no proof other than the phone call.



"I cannot assume for them what their motivations were or weren't. I assumed, going back to the phone call, that we were expecting a Mr and Mrs Preddy and what arrived was two gentlemen."









Explaining her and her husband's faith, Mrs Bull told the court: "We accept that the Bible is the holy living word of God and we endeavour to follow that."



Mrs Bull said the hotel's policy was not to allow unmarried couples - of either sex - to share a double room or a twin room and that had been in place since 1986.



The couple's faith meant they did not believe in sex before marriage and would not allow it under their roof, Mrs Bull said.



She said that if heterosexual couples turn up, having booked a room, they take their word for it that they are married.



Mrs Bull explained that she took Mr Preddy's booking over the telephone when she was ill and because of her illness she did not explain the hotel's policy.



"I said to Mr Quinn that I had let a double room for tomorrow night and I had forgot to go through the policy with them and immediately Mr Quinn reassured me that everything was going to be OK because of the previous phone call," she told the court.



"I would have said immediately there is no way I would have let them make the journey to our door only to be disappointed.



"We were very surprised when the two gentlemen turned up the next day."



The hearing heard that the semi-detached hotel has seven rooms in total - three doubles, one family room, two twins and and single - with the Bulls living on the ground floor.



Their legal defence is being supported by the Christian Institute.



Making legal submissions, their barrister James Dingemans QC said: "It is not part of the defendants' case to undermine the rights of same-sex partners.



"The defendants do submit their policy is directed to sex and not sexual orientation and is lawful."







Mr Preddy told the court he had booked a room over the phone after looking at the hotel's website and had not seen its room policy, which was displayed only on its booking form.



When he and Mr Hall arrived at the hotel he said they did not see any prominent Christian tapestry in the hallway.



"When we arrived we spoke to a lady and she got Mr Quinn to come and talk to us and explain the hotel's policy," he said.



"I would say the body language wasn't great and it was clear we were not welcome in the hotel.



"It's fair to say he didn't raise his voice."



Mr Preddy said both he and his civil partner were members of Stonewall but they had no knowledge of the organisation contacting the hotel before their visit.



After being turned away, they reported the Bulls to the police, the court heard.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory