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Alexander v Home Office – 1988

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Alexander v Home Office [1988] 1 WLR 968

AGGRAVATED DAMAGES – QUANTIFICATION OF DAMAGES

Facts

The claimant was a prisoner who had been racially discriminated against in his initial assessment by the prison officer and in various applications for work within the prison. He brought an action alleging unlawful direct discrimination, contrary to the Race Relations Act 1976.

At first instance, the judge found that the claimant had been treated based on a racial stereotype and not as an individual in his assessment and that the rejection of his applications for various roles within the prison had been rejected due to his colour. Damages were awarded for the difference between the rate of pay in the job the claimant had worked and those which he had applied for. In addition to £50 ‘special damages’ to compensate the injury to his feelings; in determining this sum, the judge took into account that the claimant was partially responsible for his position due to his failure to co-operate with the prison authorities, and that any injury to his feelings must be largely amended by having been vindicated by the finding of racial discrimination. The claimant appealed against the quantum of the award of damages. 

Issue

The issue was whether the judge was correct in his assessment of the quantum of damages, particularly whether he was right to reduce the damages on account of the claimant having been vindicated by the finding of racial discrimination.

Held

The court held that as the object of damages for discrimination is restitution, and damages for hurt feelings should be restrained accordingly; however, they need not be ‘minimal’. Further, they should not be reduced on the basis that the claimant had been vindicated by a finding of racial discrimination. The appeal was therefore allowed.

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