Deaf Sunderland drug dealer has discrimination claims thrown out

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A DEAF drug dealer who complained when police didn’t bring a sign language interpreter to a raid on his home has had a compensation bid thrown out by the country’s top civil judge.

Bryan Finnigan, 33, whose home was searched for drugs three times between March 2010 and February 2011, claimed his rights under the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act and 2010 Equality Act were violated by officers.

However, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, yesterday pointed out that Finnigan, from Sunderland, had been able to communicate well enough to sell cannabis to undercover police officers and dismissed all his claims as groundless.

Cash hauls totalling more than £2,000 had been uncovered by police during two of the raids, although Finnigan, who has been profoundly deaf and without speech since birth, insisted he had saved the money to pay his rent.

His bid for substantial damages from the Chief Constable of Northumbria Police was rejected at Newcastle County Court last year after Judge Christopher Walton found there had been “effective communication” between him and police officers.

However, his barrister, Catherine Casserley, argued on appeal that the force had breached the duty it owed him by failing to make “reasonable adjustments” by taking along a British Sign Language qualified interpreter.

Police lawyers, however, insisted no such step was necessary because officers knew they could communicate with Mr Finnigan, who Judge Walton said had a history of dishonesty, violence and drugs crimes.

Ruling that there was “absolutely no need for an interpreter”, the judge backed the force on the basis that “a combination of Mr Finnigan’s own abilities, his wife’s and those of the police officers were sufficient to achieve effective communication”. But Finnigan said there were also delays in making interpreters available at the police station when he was taken in for questioning, and that he became “anxious and agitated as a result”, to the extent of making an attempt at self harm on one occasion.

Dismissing his appeal, Lord Dyson, sitting with Lord Justice Jackson and Lady Justice Gloster, noted that “the usual practice of the Northumbria Police was to communicate in spoken English” and ruled that there was nothing wrong with that.

The judge – who observed that “interpreters cost money” during the case – added that, in November 2010, Finnigan had “made a sale of cannabis to undercover police officers from his home”.

Judge Walton rejected all Finnigan’s allegations of mistreatment.

Lord Dyson concluded: “The fact that Mr Finnigan had been able to sell cannabis to undercover officers without the assistance of an interpreter could have done little to enhance his case.”