Two year legal battle over a Northants councillor’s iPad finds in claimant’s favour

A tribunal has found in favour of Brixworth parish councillor Stephen Pointer, who sued the parish under the Equality Act.
A tribunal has found in favour of Brixworth parish councillor Stephen Pointer, who sued the parish under the Equality Act.

A registered blind Northamptonshire councillor who sued his parish for not providing him with a reading aide has won his case - following a two year legal duel.

Stephen Pointer took legal action against Brixworth Parish Council in 2014 for “failing to make appropriate adjustments” to his disability under the Equality Act.

He said the parish council should have paid for a reasonable adjustment to help him read meeting notes, due to his limited sight. It never did.

Back in 2013 the council offered to “gift” him an iPad, providing he paid monthly maintenance and insurance bills for it.

But Mr Pointer argued that requiring him to pay such costs amounted to an infringement of the Equality Act and singled him out for discrimination.

He also pursued five complaints of harassment, he claims to have suffered at the hands of council members as a result of the ongoing dispute.

Finally, after two years of deadlock, a tribunal judge has ruled the parish council should not have expected Mr Pointer to have paid for the “reasonable adjustment.”

In his case summary, Judge Michael Ord, said: “It is regrettable that rather than resolve the issue by removing the unlawful requirement placed on the claimant to pay for maintenance and insurance, the respondent (Brixworth Parish Council) entered into a lengthy, continuing and ultimately damaging dispute.”

And he went on to say: “The result has been a disproportionately long and unnecessarily complicated tribunal claim, which has taken up disproportionate amount of tribunal time and has resulted in the respondent in particular incurring what are doubtless very substantial legal costs.”

A costs hearing will determine how much compensation Mr Pointer is entitled to in due course.

It is not yet known how much the parish council has spent fighting the legal battle, but it is understood the figure is likely to be in the tens of thousands.

Judge Ord also found in favour of Mr Pointer in relation to three of the five harassment claims.

In relation to one of the claims, before a meeting on November 19, 2013, Mr Pointer said he could not attend because he could not read the papers for the meeting.

But his apologies were not accepted and he was marked absent. This Judge Ord said amounted to harassment.

A spokesman for Brixworth Parish Council, said; “The parish council have noted the comments in the employment tribunal judgement.

“We are actively reviewing procedures.

“We look forward to being able to publish a full report in due course after the final hearing has concluded.”