Van rental refused on basis of colour

A black student has been awarded £3,000 damages after taking a van hire company to court, claiming it refused to lease him a vehicle because of his colour.

Ian Thompson, 34, a post-graduate student of Darlington, Co Durham, launched his legal battle with the backing of the Commission for Racial Equality after a white friend was allowed to hire a van for a similar journey. The case against North Road Self Hire is the second won by the CRE against vehicle hire firms in north-east England in the past six months.

The commission's northern region director, Eric Seward, said: "Car and van hire firms ... have a legal responsibility not to discriminate. That such companies are behaving in this way is a sad indication of how deeply rooted racial discrimination still is."

Mr Thompson went to collect a van booked over the telephone from North Road Self Hire, Darlington, but when he told the firm he was going to Liverpool the company allegedly told him there was a 25-mile radius limit on the vehicles. Mr Thompson then arranged for a white friend to request a van to travel to Sheffield; the friend was given the van.

After the contested small claims hearing at Newcastle County Court, Mr Thompson said: "I never expected this kind of treatment ...This is not my vision of multicultural Britain in the 21st century."