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This article refers to discrimination against soldiers of the armed forces of the United Kingdom which encompasses the Royal Navy, the British Army and the Royal Air Force.[1]

In December 2007, the Prime Minister requested a report to evaluate the relationship between “our Armed Forces and the rest of society”.[2] The report to the Prime Minister refers to a number of incidents, namely: An army officer was refused entry to Harrods in November 2006 (Harrods continues to refuse entrance to persons in ‘combat dress’); Troops returning from Afghanistan were told to change into civilian clothes at Birmingham Airport in December 2007; Troops returning from Afghanistan into Edinburgh Airport were directed away from the public areas through ad hoc facilities in 2007; Patients from the Armed Forces rehabilitation centre at Headley Court were subjected to verbal abuse in November 2007;[3] RAF personnel were banned from wearing uniform in Peterborough after incidents of verbal abuse; and there were other unreported incidents of discrimination and harassment against soldiers.[4] In December 2008, a pizza shop discontinued offering discounts to members of the British troops but continued to offer such discounts to the police, the fire service and NHS staff.[5] On 4 September 2008, the Metro Hotel refused a wounded soldier a room, forcing him to spend the night in his car.[6] Moreover, there were incidents of public houses banning soldiers in 2002.[7]

Current legal practiceEdit

As for the Metro Hotel, legal experts confirmed it was not against the law for hotel staff to turn away a potential customer because of his or her job.[8] The report to the Prime Minister states that “It is quite intolerable that those who wear the Queen’s uniform should be denied access to public or commercial services as a result, but there is no legal protection for the targets of such discrimination.” [9]

Proposals to improve the situation are limited to the “legal protection of the uniform”.[10] Thus, a hotel could, presumably, still refuse an officer who did not wear his uniform. For example, the Metro Hotel refused the non-uniformed soldier when he presented his army warrant card.[11] Some members of the public have taken matters into their own hands. Metro Hotel had to call the police as their lines were flooded with angry, abusive and threatening calls.[12] Mr Kai Graf von der Pahlen and Mr Taha Idris of the Swansea Bay Racial Equality Council published research on ‘soldier discrimination’ [13] which raises the question whether ‘soldier discrimination’ may amount to unlawful, indirect gender discrimination. The research shows that male soldiers may have a case for unlawful gender discrimination because most of the soldiers of the UK Armed Forces are male. The discriminator is thus effectively excluding a pre-dominantly (approximately 90%) male group of people which is classed as “indirect gender discrimination” under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and, therefore, unlawful.[14]

ReferencesEdit

  1. Ministry of Defence [internet] http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/Home
  2. Davies, Q., Clark, B., and Sharp, M. 2008. Report of Inquiry into National Recognition of our Armed Forces, Report to the Prime Minister. May, p.3
  3. Davies, Q., Clark, B., and Sharp, M. 2008. Report of Inquiry into National Recognition of our Armed Forces, Report to the Prime Minister. May, p.39
  4. Davies, Q., Clark, B., and Sharp, M. 2008. Report of Inquiry into National Recognition of our Armed Forces, Report to the Prime Minister. May, p.40
  5. Daily Mail Reporter, 2008. Soldier's fury as pizza shop ends discounts for troops... but keeps them for police, fire and NHS staff. MailOnline, [internet], 31 December.
  6. Fletcher, H., 2008. Soldier forced to sleep in car after hotel refuses him a room. Timesonline, [internet], 5 September. Available at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article4674411.ece
  7. Anonymous, 2002. Soldiers banned from pubs in Stamford. BBC, [internet] 6 July. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/lincolnshire/news/2002/07/06/army_drinkers.shtml
  8. Staples, J., 2008. Soldier is turfed out of hotel for being in Army. Metro, 5 September, p.5
  9. Davies, Q., Clark, B., and Sharp, M. 2008. Report of Inquiry into National Recognition of our Armed Forces, Report to the Prime Minister. May, p.17
  10. Davies, Q., Clark, B., and Sharp, M. 2008. Report of Inquiry into National Recognition of our Armed Forces, Report to the Prime Minister. May, p.6
  11. Fletcher, H., 2008. Soldier forced to sleep in car after hotel refuses him a room. Timesonline, [internet], 5 September. Available at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article4674411.ece
  12. Fletcher, H., 2008. Soldier forced to sleep in car after hotel refuses him a room. Timesonline, [internet], 5 September. Available at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article4674411.ece
  13. Graf Pahlen, K. and Idris, T., “Joining Forces”, Solicitors Journal, Vol. 153 no 43 17-11-2009, http://www.solicitorsjournal.com
  14. Graf Pahlen, K. and Idris, T., “Joining Forces”, Solicitors Journal, Vol. 153 no 43 17-11-2009, http://www.solicitorsjournal.com

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