Disability and the Police

In contrast to my previous blogs, where I bored my (few) readers to death with my views on disability issues, in this blog I will not pontificate. But rather, I will ask questions, and return to the issue discussed here once I have done my research.

I was very intrigued last night to read a curious case: Finnigan v Northumbria Police [2013] EWCA Civ 1191, available here. The case concerns a deaf person whose house was searched by the police, without the presence of a BSL interpreter. The court held that the absence of a BSL interpreter did not disadvantage Finnigan in communicating with the police during the search.

The case got me thinking about two things:

1. What is the status of BSL under English law? Can deaf people claim that BSL is a minority language? If so, would there be an issue of direct discrimination, if the police, knowing that the person is deaf, chose not to bring in a BSL interpreter during a house search?

2. Best practice. Why aren’t police officers trained in BSL? Or are they?  By that I do not mean that all police officers should learn BSL, if that is deemed too expensive or impractical. But having one officer in each police station that knows BSL would be sensible. Could it then be argued that by not having at least one police officer who knows BSL, the police is indirectly discriminating against deaf people?

Over to you! Any comments or suggestions, very, very welcome!


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