January 26, 2015 | By David Barrett, The Telegraph
London: A Sikh solicitor has won undisclosed compensation after being barred from entering a prison to visit a client because he had pins in his turban.
Amrik Bilkhu, a criminal defence solicitor, was told to remove the pins even though he pointed out it would make the religious garment fall apart.
He brought a religious discrimination claim against the Ministry of Justice, which has now settled out of court and agreed to pay Mr Bilkhu’s legal costs.
Mr Bilkhu arrived at Belmarsh prison in south-east London to visit a client who was on remand in October 2013.
He had previously been allowed into the jail without any problems but on this occasion was refused entry because of the four pins holding together his turban.
The solicitor then sued for religious discrimination and a trial was due in the county court in May, before the Ministry of Justice agreed an out of court settlement.
Duncan Burtwell, of GT Stewart solicitors, said: “The way that Mr Bilkhu was treated in this matter was appalling and it ought never to have been necessary to bring this claim on his behalf.
“Any legitimate security concerns relating to Mr Bilkhu’s turban pins could have been more proportionately addressed than by the refusal to admit him to the prison altogether.
“In any event, Mr Bilkhu’s attendances at Belmarsh on previous occasions and Belmarsh’s ‘approval’ of his turban pins for subsequent legal visits rendered the entire incident ridiculous.”
Mr Burtwell, who is also a colleague of Mr Bilkhu, said he had suffered “indignation and distress” at the prison staff’s actions.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We respect individuals’ rights to wear religiously appropriate clothing, including hats, turbans and caps.
“We do not comment on individual claims.”
Source: The Telegraph