UK lose court ruling for no sign language interpretation of Covid briefings

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A deaf woman has won a court case against the UK government for failing to provide sign language interpreters at televised Covid-19 briefings. AFP reports that the ruling is the latest setback for the UK government in its legal battles against citizens suing over its handling of the pandemic.

Judge Michael Fordham ruled in favour of citizen Katie Rowley against the Cabinet Office for not providing the interpretation during broadcasts on 21 September and 12 October last year.

Fordham said the omission constituted “discrimination” as it breached the “reasonable adjustments duty” but found the government was not “in present or continuing breach”.

Campaign group The Good Law Project have also taken the UK government it to court amid accusations of inadequate transparency and cronyism relating to the procurement of contracts for personal protective equipment.

In June, the High Court ruled against senior minister Michael Gove for unlawfully awarding a contract worth more than £560,000 for virus-related communications to a firm without going through proper procedures. And state auditors last year found the government failed to account clearly for spending on supplies and services during the pandemic worth £18bn.

Rowley, a self-employed actor and writer from Leeds in northern England, wanted compensation for “injury to feelings”. Her lawyers claimed she should receive thousands of pounds in compensation, and a lower court will award damages at a later date.

Only two of more than 170 Covid-19 briefings were unlawful because British Sign Language was not provided, according to officials.

Photo: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivering a press briefing on the Covid pandemic. PA-EFE/ANDREW PARSONS / DOWNING STREET


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