Guide dog owner was wrongly refused entry
PUBLISHED: 13:11 21 July 2006 | UPDATED: 22:00 28 May 2010
AN antiques shop owner ordered to pay damages to a March man after refusing him entry to her shop, says she will spend every penny I have to prove her innocence. Leona Bracey was ordered to pay damages and costs totalling more than £1,800 to John Hammon
AN antiques shop owner ordered to pay damages to a March man after refusing him entry to her shop, says she will spend "every penny I have" to prove her innocence.
Leona Bracey was ordered to pay damages and costs totalling more than £1,800 to John Hammond last week after a county court judge found her guilty of discrimination.
But Mrs Bracey and her husband, Kirk, are angry that they didn't take the county court action seriously enough and were not legally represented at the hearing.
Mr Hammond, 61, of Ashmond House, Queens Street, told Ipswich County Court on Friday he had been stopped from entering the Braceys' shop in Felixstowe with his guide dog by a verbally-abusive manageress.
The court heard how Mr Hammond, a retired bricklayer, was confronted by "screaming and shouting" Mrs Bracey as he tried to enter Cobwebs Antique Centre with his dog, Ingram, in September last year.
Mr Hammond, who was wearing a yellow sash identifying him as a guide dog user, said: "At this particular shop I went to the door and I was confronted by someone shouting at me. I got to the entrance when a voice said 'you're not bringing that dog in here'."
Mr Hammond, who has been blind for about three years through diabetes, added: "I explained it was a guide dog and she said she didn't care. She said she was not having him in the shop and what if he breaks things. She was screaming and shouting at me.
"She said she didn't even want me in the shop and that I wasn't the sort of person who would buy anything from her shop. She said if I didn't go away she would do something to me that she would regret later."
The court also heard from Mr Hammond's wife Eileen - who was with him at the time - and she told how one witness said she was shocked at the "absolutely disgusting" way her husband was treated.
Sister-in-law Kathleen Maycroft, who was in the shop during the incident, added: "I did say to the lady that the dog was a guide dog and explained that if anything was broken I would pay for it, but basically she went off on one."
A witness, who wrote a letter to the court, said Mrs Bracey told Mr Hammond "you can't ******* well see, why do you want to come in here?"
In response to the disability discrimination allegation, Mrs Bracey, from Felixstowe, claimed she was not abusive to Mr Hammond and allowed him into the shop on the proviso that if the dog broke anything the party would have to pay for it.
She added of Mr Hammond: "He was shouting at me saying that I should not have a shop and this, that, and the other.
"The man then left the shop, went into the street and was shouting: 'Someone help me, I have been refused entry into the shop.' I went to calm the situation down, but he would not have any of it."
Mrs Bracey also said she both phoned and wrote to Mr Hammond to apologise, offering him a shop discount and money offers of up to £500 - all of which were refused.
District Judge Patrick Bazley White found in favour of Mr Hammond, awarding damages and costs of £1,834. He said: "I'm quite satisfied that the claimant is entitled to damages and was hurt and distressed as a result of the defendant's conduct. The claimant lost confidence in the use of his guide dog, which is particularly important."
After the case, Mr Hammond said: "She showed no remorse. I was very shocked when it happened - I had never encountered anything like that before.