Domino player wins case over ‘racist’ noise ban in London square | London

A domino player has won a lawsuit over a ban against him and his friends playing the game “loudly” he believes was racially motivated.

Ernest Theophile sued Westminster City Council after it issued a ban to ban social gatherings in Maida Hill Market Square in north-west London.

Theophile and his friends have been gathering in the square for 12 years to chat, socialize and play dominoes, cards and backgammon. However, the council banned them from meeting there in January 2021, citing noise pollution and antisocial behaviour. It said it had received more than 200 complaints.

In March 2021, a judge changed the order allowing the group to return to the square at an intersection between Harrow Road, Westbourne Park and Maida Vale. But the group could have faced jail time if caught “playing loud amplified music, drinking alcohol, yelling or swearing”.

However, the 74-year-old sued the municipality, saying the order was racist because it discriminated against Caribbean culture. Theophile’s family came from the Dominican Republic in the 1950’s as part of the Windrush generation.

“If you’re West Indian, you just can’t play dominoes without making a bit of noise,” Theophile said, adding that he had visited the area for most of his life and that it helped people avoid social isolation.

On Friday, Judge Heather Baucher, presiding judge of London’s central court, ruled that Westminster City Council erroneously failed to take into account equality when revoking the warrant.

She said the decision was “flawed” and “unsustainable”.

Lawyers representing the council said the guidance saying equality issues should be taken into account was “seriously wrong” so officials wouldn’t have to follow it, which Baucher dismissed.

Theophile’s legal team will try to throw the ban out in court next month.

Theophile said: “The loneliness was one of the biggest reasons we gather there. That’s why the square [is] ideal for us.

“Sometimes the younger generation comes here and gets together, but we just want a place where we can socialize and play a few games to pass the time.”

The Reverend Henry Everett, the vicar of nearby St. Peter’s Church, said: “Westminster has some of the most deprived areas of London. Around the Harrow Road I have noticed that there is an amazing need in the community for mental health care, so I was shocked to hear about the ban and expressed my grave concern about the use of these dangerous, catch-all measures against the whole community.”

Theophile’s lawyer, Anne McMurdie, said: “The Westminster City Council has completely failed to recognize and honor its equality obligations to the West Indian community. Instead, the council rushed to draconian measures by requesting a warrant, backed by an arrest warrant, that could have sent my client to jail.”

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A spokesman for Westminster City Council said the new Labor administration hoped to find a solution: “We recognize and accept the Supreme Court’s verdict.

“This is the first time we’ve been asked to apply the Equality Act when applying for a ban, which is why we hadn’t asked before.

“We maintain and continue to believe that our actions have always served the interests of local residents, who are plagued by anti-social behavior and crime.

“However, the council is reviewing its approach to this matter, with the new administration looking for a solution that works for the entire community.”

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