Black OAP blasts 'racist' court order threatening him with jail for playing dominoes too loudly

5 May 2022, 11:24

A black pensioner who has been threatened with jail for playing board games too loudly, said he is being racially "discriminated" against.
A black pensioner who has been threatened with jail for playing board games too loudly, said he is being racially "discriminated" against. Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

A black pensioner who has been threatened with jail for playing board games too loudly said he is being racially "discriminated" against.

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Ernest Theophile, 73, meets with other "lonely" OAP friends at Maida Hill Market Square in north London to socialise and play games such as dominoes, cards and backgammon.

It has been a regular hobby for Mr Theophile for 12 years, but after the Westminster Council received 200 noise complaints - with one resident claiming they moved due to the noise - the council secured an injunction banning games in the square.

But a judge recently overruled the blanket ban on playing in the square and instead threatened the pensioner with jail if he is ever caught "playing loud amplified music, drinking alcohol and shouting and swearing" in the square.

Mr Theophile is now attempting to fight the "crazy" ruling claiming it amounts to racial "discrimination" because the majority of those whose behaviour is constrained by the injunction share a "protected characteristic" of race.

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Lawyers argued in court that traditionally, dominoes is played enthusiastically on Caribbean islands and typically the style of play is boisterous where the pieces are slammed down on the table.

Speaking about the issue on Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, social commentator Nels Abbey explained: "I think that the cultural periphery that comes with the actual game that is played by these elderly gentlemen, sometimes making a little bit more noise or sometimes actually expressing a bit of excitement in their own way…

"How that is potentially policed could potentially spill into some degree of racial discrimination."

"There’s no doubt about it what so ever."

Mr Abbey, who is from Maida Hill said the noise associated with playing dominos "is not necessary" but is a representation of "culture" and could be compared with noise at other games such as darts.

The British-Nigerian writer said the "culture of the elderly Afro-Caribbean gentlemen" who have lived in the area for many years, is clashing with younger generations moving in, and urged for more "compassion and tolerance" from people towards the men.

He continued: "I think the broader point here, is that what we are seeing a lot of times when it comes to venues, and particularly venues that host black social events, we are often finding that people moving to London and when they move near to these events, complain to get the events shut down.

"So we are seeing the systematic closing of black clubs and venues and pushing them into smaller places, sometimes into school halls because their venues are being shut down because people are complaining about them because they don’t really often understand that it is part of the culture.

"It is part of what makes the area beautiful."

Tim James-Matthews, the barrister representing Mr Theophile, told Central London County Court: "An injunction restraining the activities of a minority of black people in a public square where there is a theoretical power of arrest and sanction of imprisonment is indirectly discriminatory."

Mr Theophile, who travelled to the UK from Dominica as part of the Windrush generation, explained that the square had been a saviour to lonely pensioners during the pandemic, saying: "We all ended up gathering there because we were kind of lonely.

"There’s nowhere else provided for us, all we wanted was somewhere we could go and sit down and play some dominoes."

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The council argues that the injunction is a reasonable response due to the widespread disruption caused to residents with complaints being made about public drinking, drug dealing and urination in public.

Judge Baucher will now consider a decision on the judgement and whether or not the council assessed its Equality Act duties before imposing the injunction.