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ballerina gains Supreme Court’s sympathy, but nothing more

6 July 2011

This is a rare victory of local authorities in the current climate of frequent legal challenges to spending cuts.

Former prima ballerina Elaine McDonald has health problems. She needs to urinate several times each night. She also needs assistance to use a commode to avoid falling. She wants her council to pay for a night time carer. The council prefers the cheaper option of providing incontinence pads. She alleges this is a breach of her human rights, and disability discrimination.

All 5 Supreme Court judges, and no doubt the country at large, sympathise with Ms McDonald. However 4 out of 5 were very clear that the council’s decision to supply incontinence pads was lawful.

The emotive nature of the claim is clear from the judges’ unusually robust language. Lady Hale, who agreed with Ms McDonald, said her claim should succeed in “a civilised society”. The other judges described her conclusions as “remarkable…surprising…regrettable” and to be “deplored”.

Strong stuff indeed.

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