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Council concedes in strip club policy legal challenge over equality duty failure

Sheffield City Council last week (29 June) conceded in court that it had failed to properly discharge the public sector equality duty, after a campaigner challenged the lawfulness of the authority’s decision to adopt a policy of licensing unlimited strip clubs.

Law firm DPG, which acted for the claimant, said the council had conceded all the grounds of her claim.

“This was an acknowledgement that they had failed to have due regard to the duty not only to eliminate discrimination, but also to positively advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between the sexes, when they  adopted the policy of unlimited strip clubs,” it said.

The claimant’s legal team had also submitted that the council had not given proper consideration to the valid concerns of campaign groups such as ‘Zero Options’ and evidenced based research on the impact of strip clubs on gender equality in particular the objectification and commodification of women’s bodies.

DPG said: “The case should serve as an important reminder to other local authorities that they cannot ignore their obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and the need to consider the impact of their decisions on people with protected characteristics in their communities.”

Partner Louise Whitfield, who represented the client, added: “This is an important win in the battle for gender equality and a resounding victory for our client and the campaigners who fought so hard to convince the council of the negative impact on women generally of allowing a proliferation of strip clubs within Sheffield.

“We hope that through this case, more women and campaign groups will be empowered to use the Equality Act to hold public bodies to account.”

The barristers instructed by DPG were Karon Monaghan QC and Jessica Jones of Matrix Chambers.

In a statement Sheffield City Council said: "We understand that we could have been clearer about how the consultation had affected our final policy. We welcome the feedback from the court, and are committed to re-running the consultation, including a new Equality Impact Assessment.

"We really hope all those with an interest in this area will take the opportunity to have their say, as we work to get the right policy for Sheffield. Today's decision has no bearing on sex establishment venues which are already licensed."

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