Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mayor wins landmark case after Tory council bans baby...

A Labour councillor won a landmark victory in court today after a judge ruled she was discriminated against by her own Tory-run council.

When Dr Pauleen Lane CBE was Mayor of Trafford in Greater Manchester, a civic vehicle carried her chain of office to official events - while she drove behind in her own small car while struggling with her newborn son Oscar.

Months earlier, Cllr Lane had informed the Leader of the Tory run council that she was pregnant and would be a nursing mother during her Mayoral year. Cllr Lane's decision to breast-feed was supported by doctors who advised her that it would aide his recovery from surgey.

She provided suitable safety seats for the official cars. But when she became Mayor, the Council banned baby Oscar from the official car. Later they decided he could travel in the car but only if accompanied by a second carer.

The Judge ruled that a second carer was "wholly unnecessary". He said that breast-feeding was a decision only a woman could take and that as a consequence, it was reasonable for Cllr Lane to have her baby with her on council duties.

The Bishop of Hulme gave evidence for Cllr Lane. He described his horror at witnessing two Mayoral attendants arrive at a function and ceremoniously remove the chain of office from the large civic car. But he said the Mayor herself was left to struggle from a small car with Oscar.

The Bishop had advised Cllr Lane to go the media to expose the Council's actions, but Cllr Lane refused, saying she was wanted to get the matter sorted out with the Council privately and with as little fuss as possible in order to protect the dignity of the Mayoral office.

The Judge awarded Cllr Lane £7,000 in personal injury damages and full legal costs - which could top £200,000.

Cllr Lane said: "I'm very pleased with the judgement. I hope it means no-one will ever have to endure the nightmare they put me through.

"But I'm also hugely saddened at the way I was treated. It was a nightmare.

"All I wanted from the council was an apology and a donation to my Mayoral charity. It's very sad that they consistently refused to act in a reasonable way."

Following the judgement, Trafford Tories read out a statement to the press which said the court case was part of a "politically motivated vendetta".

Labour's Deputy Leader and Paty chair Harriet Harman MP said: "Trafford Tories should have graciously accepted the judgement of the court. Instead they are adding insult to injury by launching a party political attack."

Having taken legal action last year to successfully sue the Mail on Sunday for libel, I know something of the stress that Cllr Lane has been put through in the past two years.

But I'm chuffed to bits that she's won.

Typical of Pauleen, she has decided to donate the £7,000 damages awarded to her to her Mayoral Charity - ironically it's Victim Support!

ADD: The action was taken under the supply of goods and services section of the Sex Discrimination Act.

UPDATE: Tonight's Manchester Evening News says the court ruling has implications for local authorities across Britain. They also have a lovely photo of
Pauleen and Oscar.


Chris Paul said...

Awarded TO her, rather than against?? And let's not forget "him indoors" Pauleen's loyal partner and Oscar's daddy Martin Rathfelder.

Well done to all three. Hurrah!

Chris Paul said...

More here now.

fairdealphil said...

thanks Paul. have now corrected my error.

JustNotSerious said...

This quote extraordinary. I didn't believe somthing like this would happen in this day and age.

Well done to her.

fairdealphil said...

what is even more extraordinary than the way this woman was (mis) treated is the appalling response by the council - and the Trafford Tories - to the judgement of the court.

I hope the questions will now be asked to expose what the council was ever thinking about, firstly the treat anyone in this way (and especically their own first citizen!), but also why they didn't just settle it with an apology and a small donation to the Mayor's charity when they had the chance...