In the following activity you will have an opportunity to try and give reasons for your finding of fact, your finding of law, and your decision-making. In the case you have to decide, both the facts and the law are uncertain. Do not worry if you find this challenging, it can be very difficult. Even experienced, professional judges sometimes struggle to explain the reasons for their thinking. It can happen that two judges reach the same conclusions, but for very different reasons.
Activity 3 Giving reasons
1. Read the following scenario and complete the question that follows.
Sara Hopmeier has a number of disabilities and uses a motorised wheelchair. Where she lives is relatively isolated, and the shortest route to town is via a recognised public footpath. The landowner Tobia Broad previously installed a stepped stile that was impossible to navigate with a wheelchair. Sara Hopmeier complained and Tobia Broad replaced the stile with a gate. Nonetheless, Sara Hopmeier is still dissatisfied and is bringing a claim for disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010Footnote 3 before you in the Norwich County Court.
The law states that if a physical feature puts a disabled person under a ‘substantial disadvantage’, a landowner only has to make reasonable adjustments to it if they are a ‘service provider’.
There is one issue of fact and one issue of law. Everything else is agreed.
The factual issue is whether the gate amounts to a ‘substantial disadvantage’ to Sara Hopmeier. Sara Hopmeier says that she still finds the gate extremely difficult to operate without assistance, and it leaves her so exhausted that she has to call for help. Tobia Broad denies this and says that he has watched Sara Hopmeier navigate the gate without help on many occasions.
The legal issue is whether Tobia Broad is under a legal duty to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to the gate. Even if a physical feature puts a disabled person under a substantial disadvantage, a landowner only has to make reasonable adjustments to it if they are a ‘service provider’. The legal issue is therefore whether the owner of land where a footpath runs is a service provider. Sara Hopmeier argues that Tobia Broad is a service provider, but Tobia Broad denies this.
2. In the textbox below, write a post which explains the reasons for your findings and decisions.
As previously noted, there was no obvious right answer for the factual and legal issue. The focus was more on providing reasons that explain why you decided the issues the way that you did. You may also have struggled to articulate the reasons for your decisions. This is normal, particularly in an unfamiliar area. Judges sometimes struggle with this too! But through having a go at this process, you should have developed your understanding of the obligation to give reasons for decisions.
In the next section, you will look a bit more closely at the reasons that a judge will give for their decision.
- 3 Equality Act 2010 c.15.Back to main text