R (JJ) v Spectrum Community Health CIC

King’s Bench Division, Administrative Court, HHJ Sephton KC [2022] EWHC 2440 (Admin), 30 September 2022

This was an unusual case in which the claimant, a prisoner who was paralysed from the neck down, without any teeth and unable to chew, sought to challenge restrictions imposed by the defendant on his diet. The defendant, which was responsible for feeding the claimant, sought to refuse him access to solid foods because of a high risk of choking. The unsuccessful challenge was brought on a number of grounds including under the EqA.

The claimant argued that the defendant’s refusal to enable him to choose his food, and/or the defendant’s control of his diet, constituted unlawful direct disability discrimination and a failure to make reasonable adjustments. The claimant’s contention that the defendant had over-estimated the risk posed to him by his preferred diet had been rejected by HHJ Sephton KC, who ruled as follows:

  1. I accept that the defendant’s practice of providing the claimant with a special diet puts him at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled; thus s20(3) of the Act is engaged. The question is whether the defendant has not taken steps it is reasonable to take to avoid the disadvantage. The only steps for which the claimant contends are to feed him in accordance with his wishes. In my view, it is not reasonable for the defendant to take those steps because (a) they may cause the claimant serious or fatal harm; (b) they might result in the defendant or its employees being prosecuted or subject to regulatory sanction (c) they would require the defendant and its employees to administer treatment which they believed was contra-indicated and not in accordance with the claimant’s clinical needs. The claimant has not persuaded me that the defendant has failed to make reasonable adjustments.

Claimant: Leonie Hirst instructed by SLS Legal/ Tuckers

Defendant: David Lock KC and Leon Glenister instructed by Hill Dickinson LLP

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