Letter to department store that assaulted mask-exempt individual

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Written by: Miri
June 16, 2021
 | One Comment

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to you regarding a deeply distressing and harrowing experience I endured at your department store on [date], which involved assault and false imprisonment by your security staff and resulted in my having to summon the police. 

I had visited the store to peruse the shoes with my partner, who was hoping to find a new pair for an upcoming special occasion, when a member of staff approached me and asked me to put on a mask. I explained that I am exempt. The staff member requested to see a card "proving" this. I politely explained to the staff member that the law does not require the mask-exempt to carry any proof of their exemption, and it is sufficient to self-certify by stating that one is exempt (1).

The staff member told me that it is store policy that the mask-exempt must show a card, and if I could not do so, I would have to put on a mask or leave the store. I patiently explained to the staff member that internal store policies of shops cannot invalidate the laws of the land in which they reside - it is actually a criminal offence under the Equality Act 2010 to ask for proof of hidden disability, or to discriminate against or withhold service from someone with a hidden disability, punishable by a personal fine of up to £5,000 and punitive damages of between £900 and £9,000, as per sections 112 (Aiding Contraventions) and section 119 (Remedies) of the Equality Act (2). However, as the staff member remained unmoved by these facts, I requested to speak to the manager.

The staff member instead summoned another security guard, who repeated the same 'policy' to me. I said that I would wait for the manager to resolve the issue. At this point, several more security guards approached, one of whom roughly accosted me, before the team forcibly removed me from the store. They applied an unreasonable degree of force to a peaceful person committing no crime (in fact, it was the staff members committing the crime by discriminating against and then assaulting me). 

When I had been roughly deposited by the staff onto the pavement outside the store, I noticed the staff member who assaulted me had dropped his ID card on the floor, so I picked it up to enable me to identify him to the police, whom I immediately telephoned to report the assault.

Whilst I was on the phone, a team of six security guards came out of the store and grabbed me, which my partner began to film. I shouted "no" and "don't touch me", and my partner repeatedly shouted at them that they were not to touch me. Nevertheless, this six-strong team dragged me back into the store, which my partner continued filming. We can make this footage available to you, should you wish.

I was then dragged down into the bowels of the building and locked in a small room. Please allow me to underline that not only had I been illegally discriminated against and assaulted, but I was now being falsely imprisoned, which is a very serious crime, with similar legal ramifications to kidnapping.

I was held in this room against my will in a state of extreme anxiety and distress, whilst my partner remained upstairs, terrified about what might have happened to me.

I was kept in this room until the police arrived, approximately 25 minutes later. To my abject astonishment and horror, the police appeared to endorse my false imprisonment, on the grounds that I was a thief. I asked what I had stolen, and was informed that my picking up the ID card the security guard who assaulted me had dropped, constituted a theft - one so severe it merited a six-strong team of guards to accost me and drag me through a building and into a prison cell, all in front of my terrified partner who was begging them to stop.

I informed the police that this was not theft, that I was the victim, not the perpetrator, of a crime, and the police should be arresting the security guards for assaulting and falsely imprisoning me, not me for picking up a card from the street. 

The police refused to do this, and instead asked for my details "so that [store name] could ban me". I declined to give my details and informed the police neither they nor the store had any right to ask for them.

Finally, and in a state of severe shock and distress, I was permitted to leave the store.

I am sure you can imagine the deep and enduring dismay and trauma this episode has caused me. I was roughhoused and manhandled like a common criminal, in what purports to be one of the most exclusive shopping environments in the world, having committed no crime or misdemeanour of any sort. Rather, I was the victim of illegal and exclusionary disabilities discrimination, which I challenged in the appropriate way, never expecting this could lead to such a harrowing and traumatic trajectory of events 

I seek your urgent assurance that the staff involved in this thoroughly disreputable incident will be reprimanded and disciplined accordingly, and that all staff employed by [store name] will receive, as a matter of urgency, rigorous and thorough training as relates to disabilities discrimination and the law.

The disgraceful experience I endured is not something that any peaceful, law-abiding person should ever have to undergo - especially when they may already be dealing with additional challenges pertaining to their mask exemption. There are a wide range of mask exemptions under the law, many of which relate to deeply personal and distressing information, which is precisely why the law protects mask exempt individuals from disclosing these details to strangers in shops. 

I look forward to your prompt response.

Yours sincerely,

[Name]

References:

1) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own/face-coverings-when-to-wear-one-and-how-to-make-your-own

2) https://www.laworfiction.com/2020/07/face-covering-for-6-to-12-months-from-24th-july/

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One comment on “Letter to department store that assaulted mask-exempt individual”

  1. Wow, Miri Ann, it's a very good thing that people have you to turn to when they are treated in this despicable manner! Well done.

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