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18 November, 2007  
London Calling

Discrimination actions are booming in Old Blighty. Lots of wrongs need to be righted – such as the headscarf wearing Muslim denied work at a punk hair salon … the bullying Indian at the Crown Prosecution Service … the aroused Scottish bicyclist … and the sexually harassed lesbian lance bombardier

imageThe phrase, “I am as busy as a Pommie Discrimination Lawyer” is hardly elegant but it deserves to enter the vernacular.

A 32-year old hairdresser, who has a Muslim accountant, is being sued for religious discrimination because she rejected a job application from a teenager who refused to work without a headscarf.

The teenager, Ms Bushra Noah, said wearing the headscarf was very important for her religion and was non-negotiable. “It is about showing your modest side and being respectful in front of others, particularly males.”

The hairdresser, Sarah Desrosiers, runs an alternative salon in London specialising in “urban, funky punky cuts”. She said it was absolutely basic that people should be able to see the stylist’s hair.

The news comes at the same time as it was revealed that discrimination cases in Britain have increased from 86,083 last year to 102,597 this year.

The most affected were small businesses sued by lawyers who took the cases on a “no win, no fee” basis. Sums were awarded from £1,000 to £250,000 and many settled out of court so their dirty washing would not be aired.

Miss Desrosiers said she had only had her salon for 18-months and that Ms Noah was suing her for more than she earned in a year. Ms Noah, who had already been rejected for 25 jobs, was invited to the salon for a trial day in March after sending Ms Desrosiers her CV.

* * *

imageThe country’s top prosecutor Sir Ken Macdonald QC (pic) and senior staff in the Crown Prosecution Service have been accused of publicly humiliating the Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Gwent region.

Madhu Rai was moved to London by Sir Ken after she had been reprimanded for bullying administrators.

A staff member, Elizabeth Gladstone, said Ms Rai had made unreasonable demands and blocked her holidays. The claims were investigated but Rai complained that the inquiry was flawed and biased.

She was sacked but later reinstated. She is now seeking an undisclosed sum in damages from a tribunal. It is part of her case that her removal to London was done in retaliation for complaining about the investigation.

Rai, who has worked for the CPS for 16 years, says Sir Ken and his offsiders discriminated against her because of her Indian background.

* * *

imageIn the Ayr sheriff court on the west coast of Scotland, a 51-year old man was sentenced this week for a serious offence.

Robert Stewart had been in his hostel room when two female cleaners knocked on his door. They say they knocked repeatedly on his door before opening it. Mr Stewart then asked, “What is it, hen?”

The startled women saw a semi-naked Mr Stewart moving his hips back and forth. But it was his choice of partner that shocked them most. It wasn’t a hen. Mr Stewart was having sex with his bicycle.

It didn’t matter that the cleaners had probably invaded Mr Stewart’s privacy. He was found guilty, put on probation and placed in the company of child molesters on the Sex Offender’s Register.

* * *

Kerry Fletcher, 31, a Lance Bombardier, is claiming sex discrimination and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Evidence unfolded during a gripping hearing that Ms Fletcher, who is a lesbian, was pestered for sex by a male sergeant who cannot be named after a legal ruling.

The sergeant, whom it appears, is not averse to dishing out a bit of lance bombardment himself, texted Ms Fletcher in the time-honoured style of a senior Australian diplomat. He told her:

“Look I may be able to convert you. You don’t know what you are missing … You should have a real man … someone like me.”

imageUnderstandably, Ms Fletcher (pic) said she was panic stricken. Her convertible sports car had already had its roof slashed twice and was scratched with a key in 2006.

Leading evidence of dubious probative value, Ashley Serr, for the Ministry of Defence, told the tribunal that Miss Fletcher (who was the first woman to ride with the King’s Troop) was discovered in a “lesbian clinch” in the stables with Cpl. Louise Ashman when she was meant to be working.

The soldier who discovered them, Gunner Ashley Yeats, said at the time both lasses were wearing combat uniform. “Cpl. Ashman had her hand inside the front of L/Bdr. Fletcher’s trousers.”

Poor old Gunner Yeats was so embarrassed he said he was forced to look away.

In cross-examination of the claimant, Serr’s advocacy soared to heights worthy of the great Clarence Darrow.

Revealing that Ms Fletcher’s car had a registration plate that read “T44RTX”, Mr Serr suggested that Ms Fletcher was a tart. This was denied.

The triumphant retort:

“You have a number plate that says you are.”