Law Centre helps disabled holidaymaker win discrimination case

Tuesday, October 7th 2014

With the help of her local Law Centre, a disabled holidaymaker has succeeded in a second claim of unlawful discrimination against package holiday company Thomas Cook. An appeal has found in her favour, after a judge previously said Thomas Cook was not responsible for acts of discrimination outside Great Britain.

Janice Campbell is one of thousands of British tourists who go on package holidays abroad with Thomas Cook. Prior to departure, Thomas Cook informed Mrs Campbell that the hotel’s swimming pool would be out of action but she could use the pool in a neighbouring hotel. However, on arrival, she found this was cancelled and the arrangements for swimming at a third pool were too far away to be accessible because of her disability.

Janice Campbell said:
“Swimming was a very important part of my holiday. I found it extremely frustrating when Thomas Cook refused to do anything to resolve my complaint.”

After trying unsuccessfully to settle her complaint, Mrs Campbell took Thomas Cook to court for unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. At trial, the judge found that, although Thomas Cook had not made simple “reasonable adjustments” of (1) arranging accessible taxis or (2) enquiring as to the cost of using the nearer hotel pool and this would merit £3,500 compensation for unlawful discrimination, the claim could not succeed. 

Thomas Cook argued that they were not liable for discrimination once Mrs Campbell stepped outside Great Britain and the trial Judge accepted this. 

Mrs Campbell appealed and a judge at Sheffield County Court has now ruled that the Equality Act 2010 did protect her from discrimination when on holiday. His Honour Judge Robinson found that there was “sufficient connection with Great Britain” that Thomas Cook was under a duty to make reasonable adjustments. In coming to this decision, the judge explained that the Equality Act 2010 only requires service providers to take steps that are reasonable.

Douglas Johnson, of Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre, said,
“This case is good news for the millions of disabled tourists as it shows they are protected from discrimination by law. Tour operators provide a service and must not discriminate, whether at home or abroad. We hope this will encourage tour operators to make sure the needs of disabled tourists are provided for when on holiday.”

This important case shows how legal aid funding can bring benefits to many thousands of people. 

Commenting on the ruling, Janice Campbell said,
“I am very pleased this case confirms that disabled people are protected against discrimination on holiday. I can’t believe that Thomas Cook is spending so much money fighting in court for the right to discriminate.” 

Catherine Casserley and Sally Cowen, specialist discrimination barristers at Cloisters Chambers in London represented Mrs Campbell.

Schona Jolly of Cloisters commented on this case;
“This is the first time that a court has fully considered the application of the Equality Act 2010 to services provided outside the UK. It means that service providers need to respond to the needs of their disabled customers both inside the UK and outside. If they do not, they may find themselves liable to court proceedings under the Act.”


  1. The Equality Act 2010 prohibits unlawful disability discrimination in the fields of employment, education, goods and services, associations and public functions. Disabled people can bring a complaint of unlawful disability discrimination in the county court.
  2. Where discrimination has occurred, county courts have the power to award compensation for “injury to feelings” – this is to cover humiliation, embarrassment, inconvenience and stress, even where there has been no financial loss.
  3. Mrs Campbell was represented in the court by barristers Catherine Casserley and Sally Cowen of Cloisters Chambers.
  4. In Mrs Campbell’s previous case, Thomas Cook was found to have discriminated against her on an earlier holiday and was ordered to pay £7500. Thomas Cook is currently appealing this judgement on the grounds that the Equality Act 2010 did not apply.
  5. The case was funded by legal aid, although Thomas Cook has now been ordered to pay the costs of the case so there is no cost to the taxpayer. Legal aid for discrimination advice is now only available through a telephone line. 
  6. Sheffield City Council still supports Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre to provide advice on unlawful discrimination. 
  7. Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre was formed from the merger of Sheffield Law Centre and other advice centres in Sheffield. It carries out legal casework in unlawful discrimination amongst other matters.

Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre's public advice line is 0114 205 5055.

For further information on this case, please contact Douglas Johnson by email or phone 0114 253 6759.