Dispute on 99 bus between woman with pushchair and wheelchair user ends up in the country’s highest court

By on

Should the bus driver have kicked the woman off the bus?


A wheelchair user who had to wait 15 minutes to board the next 99 bus because there wasn’t any room for him on the first one will today have his long-awaited moment in the Supreme Court.

The disabled appellant will tell the seven justices, including Lady Hale and Lords Sumption and Neuberger, that FirstGroup bus operating company unlawfully discriminated against him, in a case that will be watched with baited breath by wheelchair users across the country.

The story started in February 2012, when 38-year-old disability rights activist Doug Paulley arrived at a bus station to board the 99 bus to Leeds. A woman with a pushchair was occupying the wheelchair space, and though the bus driver asked her to move, she refused, and the driver took no further action. Paulley, who lives in a care home, had to wait about 15 minutes for the next bus and ended up missing his train. A significant event for spontaneous travel is not easy for disabled people as Paulley explains:

If you want to travel and you’ve got access problems, you’ve got to phone the transport company 24 or 48 hours ahead [to request assistance] — you can’t just turn up and go.

Paulley sued FirstGroup for unlawful discrimination and, at first instance, was awarded £5,500 in damages at Leeds County Court in August 2013.

But the Court of Appeal was having none of it, and rejected the county court ruling in December 2014. The original judgment, the three judges agreed, suggests bus drivers are legally bound to eject passengers who don’t move from the designated wheelchair area, but in reality this isn’t legally enforceable, so it had to be overruled.

sc paulley

Now — as is often the case — Neuberger and co have been left to sort out the mess. For the rest of the day, the justices will hear arguments from Cloisters Chambers’ Robin Allen QC and Catherine Casserley, for the appellant, and Martin Chamberlain QC and Oliver Jones from Brick Court Chambers for the respondent, who will debate what reasonable adjustments a bus company is required to make to accommodate wheelchair users.

In the run-up to the long-awaited case, the appellant, who has a nervous system-related condition, said:

Wheelchair spaces are the only place on the bus that wheelchair users can travel in; if they aren’t available, wheelchair users can’t travel. This is the single biggest barrier experienced by wheelchair users when accessing transport, and most wheelchair users experience this.

The hearing is scheduled to last a day, and no one’s quite sure which way it’s going to go. But — as Legal Cheek pointed out just yesterday — a seven-strong bench is often a sign the court is thinking about doing some overruling.



Counsel for the Appellant is seriously floundering at the moment. Doesn’t seem to know which page anything is on in the bundles.



Ooh, I love a bit of ball-by-ball courtroom commentary. What’s happening now?



They’re trying to decide if something is on page 592 or 594



As much as I sympathise with the disabled guy, it seems a bit harsh to fine the bus company just because another customer was being difficult by refusing to move.



I feel like he was taking a stand and making a point, rather than trying to get the P .



‘Taking a stand’. Pun intended?



Although the wheelchair user lives in a care home has it been established if he is entitled to the mobility component for PIP? if so he could use that money for a taxi as an alternative means of traveling. The pushchair user has no other method of travel therefore needed to use the bus. All to often wheelchair uses are either receiving mobility PIP or have a notability vehicle that someone else is using. This is a grey issue but all facts as well as discrimination need to be looked at. Just my personal opinion



It would help if there were wheelchair accessible taxis in my town. There aren’t any.



Mobility PIP is no where near enough for a disabled person to get a taxi everywhere, and there’s poor availability of wheelchair accessible taxis, very often wheelchair accessible taxis are not prioritised for wheelchair users or the drivers will not take wheelchair users.

This is a discrimination issue and access to services, whether one person is in receipt of a particular welfare benefits isn’t relevant.

Why do you assume that the pushchair woman has no alternative means of transport, but you go on to explore alternative means of transport the wheelchair could use?

Given that the eligibility criteria for the higher rate of mobility rate is tougher and that more disabled people are having their cars repossessed, access to public transport is an important issue.



A pushchair she could of folded and still used the bus a wheelchair user cannot fold down his wheelchair



Have you ever tried getting a disabled taxi? Half of the time when you ring they don’t have any free. And when you do book they don’t turn up. Unless youre disabled yourself you won’t understand how hard it is.
Plus a wheelchair cannot be folded up and if it can the disabled person can’t always transfer.
A pram can be folded up.. Sick of judgmental people who know nothing about disability and the rubbish we put up with on a daily basis!



Problem is that in many areas taxi driving jobs are the sole preserve of males from a certain religion that regard disabilities as punishment from on high, and will not carry guide dogs as they are ritually unclean.

Call me what you will, but it’s true!

You’ll never get gender equality, disability rights and LGBT+ rights to take precedence over certain medieval people’s religious views.



….what? In my city taxi drivers aren’t allowed to refuse guide dogs or they get their badge taken of them and secondly, the reason there aren’t many wheelchair accessible taxis isn’t because their religion regards disabled people as the Devils children, but is because you need a minibus with ramps, foldable seats and also a license to be able to carry wheelchairs. Are you surprised that most taxi drivers decide to get your normal 5 seater cars than going to huge amounts of effort for in what most cases is earning the same amount of money?



We shouldn’t have to get a taxi, we have every right to us cheaper public transport like able bodied people do!



How is the level of benefits this man is receiving relevant?
He may get pip or even own a motility car but how does that give him less rights to ride the bus??
The person with the pushchair may well be getting child tax credits and child benefit… They may own a car, how ridiculous to suggest that the pushchair users only means of travel is a bus!
There could be a number of factors at play… the child or parent could have a hidden disability and need that seat also… but then according to your logic that would make them less worthy to ride the bus anyway as should be using their benefits on a taxi!? Wow!



So if I have to use a taxi, I have to wait longer for a wheelchair taxi. And then I get charged more than you. I have a bus pass. And a push chair is for pushing, which you are not doing on a bus. Mostbpeoplecwith pushchairs only go a couple of stops. When my children were younger, if you wanted take you buggy on the bus you had to fold it. Simple as. So I walked everywhere.



Not all disabled people are allowed to drive due to how their condition affects them or due to side affects of medication.



The pushchair user can fold the thing up and sit down with their child like anyone else – I’ve done this lots of times, not because a wheelchair user needed the space, but because it was already occupied by another pushchair.



So what about the other paying passenger? The one with an infant in a pushchair? Should she have been made to leave the bus? She had paid for her right to be on that bus. If there was no suitable position for her then she did no wrong.

I’ve been refused entry to a bus because they can only carry a certain number of pushchairs (when up & baby in it) – but it’s not always as easy as just removing the infant and holding the baby if you have shopping/changing bag etc.



Yes, I agree.

In terms of equality any one person can be refused entry to a bus (i.e. if it is full etc)…



The Appellant’s Counsel is going to run out of time here. I wonder what happens in those circumstances? Perhaps Lord Sumption has a button that ejects counsel through the roof?



Perhaps that’s what the wheelchair user thought should have happened to the person in the pushchair.


Boh Dear

If counsel takes too long they get a -5 point penalty and opposing counsel gets to remove 2 documents from the bundle the offending barrister was hoping to rely on.

Didn’t they teach you anything at law school?



Oh dear, another ”entitlement” parent.



I wish it was the next 99 bus. It was the 770 that goes all round the houses, takes much longer, and puts me the other side of town from where I needed to be.



For the attention of all those saying that the pushchair parent is a paying customer entitled to a seat, of course they are. This isn’t about that. It’s about them having to fold down their buggy and put it in the luggage rack (if it can be folded down).

If I am mistaken ant the guy wants mum’s with pushchairs to be ejected then that’s ridiculous, they are in the same position as him re mobility and transport.



Katie, it’s ‘bated breath’ not ‘baited breath’


Katie King

It can be “baited breath” if I smell sweetly of cherries and you want to kiss me, only for me to bite your tongue off for being so rude!



Oh Katie, what a picture you’ve conjured up there.



It might have been a short wait for this particular disabled gentleman but bus services have been cut throughout the country and on our route my daughter can wait up to an hour for the next bus meaning she either has to leave hours before anything or hope there is now buggy on the bus. First bus didnt even ask for an empty buggy to be folded a couple of weeks ago! Also taxis are expensive. If you can get them. A few weeks back my daughter rang 12 taxi companies and none could help, Even if she tries to book ahead they say they don’t know whether they can come or not. How can disabled people expect to hold down a job or become reliable employees if they don’t have reliable transport.



No one has reliable transport anymore, particularly not in London. It’s the same answer for everyone – leave earlier.



Please not “buggy” (or “stroller”). It’s “pushchair”.



I agree with the sentiment but to be absolutely correct it’s a ‘perambulator’ or ‘pram’ for short.



Maybe I’m just an old fashioned judgmental fart but she chose to have a baby he didn’t choose to be disabled . I would always put a disabled person as a priority over a person with a child.



She might not have “chosen” to have a baby.

Have you never heard of accidental pregnancies?



A lack of brain power to stop yourself falling pregnant is not a disability



Didn’t say it was, flatuland!



Failing to put a condom on isn’t an accident, before you say
Well it split, my pill didn’t work, take responsibilities for you actions


The Big Burper

Does that also go for someone who is disabled due to their own stupidity?

Perhaps we should have a different colour of wheelchair for those who are disabled because, e.g. they thought it was a good idea to jump off a roof whilst under the influence?

Then, by your logic, we can give priority to those who are disabled through no fault of their own, and leave those who are disabled due to their own actions to cry in the rain!



Re the last sentence – isn’t the Supreme Court always “thinking about doing some overruling”, as it only hears appeals?



People keep saying it’s not as easy as folding pushchair but that’s the way it was always done. We weren’t allowed on the bus unless the pushchair was folded. Yes it’s difficult with shipping, or child sleeping, more than one child etc. But people managed over the years why suddenly can’t they. Unless the parent or child is disabled themselves it should be law that the fold the pushchair and vacate the space for the wheelchair user. In my opinion. Even on dla/pip taxis are to expensive for all but the shortest journeys if available for wheelchair users.


Newburger LJ (with fries)

I rule that they should all have walked! Baby and leg-disabled man included!

No more wishy washy political correctness!


Lord Harley of Counsel

The bus company should have made reasonable adjustments and moved the bus to Rochdale.

Problem solved.



disability vs lifestyle choice
I know which side I’d be fighting for!



As a disabled parent with a disabled child, and a pram using child I see both sides. However, the buses usually have enough room for pushchair and a wheelchair so I wonder why that couldn’t happen? And also, it’s all a grey area. We don’t know if mum is disabled or bub is? Buses should have more space for wheelchairs,and pushchairs – and less damn shopping trolleys, they’re the real issue 😉



Maybe one of the kind passengers could of helped the mum fold her buggy down and hold the baby ,as bus drivers use to do,
I see both sides as I’m a mum of 7 and now have mobility problems .i have 3 grand children and understand all too well how getting a baby out to get a bus is a matter of timing between feeds ,school pick ups and appointments ,maybe even work .waiting for the next bus may of meant returning home and a wasted journey to her as well .
I don’t see myself as having any extra need to anybody else ,I like to think that I would understand both sides and work out a mutual arrangement .esoecially if the mum was already in the bus !



Neither one should be using public transport during rush-hour, especially push-chair pushers.



ParaUber! Coming to a town near you!


Dwayne the Midget

As a disabled person who travels in a pram due to being vertically challenged, I’m somewhat on the fence here.



This is isn’t about wheelchairs v buggies it’s about ANY bus user. The COA found the bus driver has no right to tell a paying passenger to move. I remember at the time of the judgement face book type mums being excited about this “victory”. It’s not a victory it’s about not being a f*cking twat. If someone (able bodied and baggage free or toting a double buggy and a suitcase) is standing in the open space in a bus the bus driver has no legal right to move them. Therefore they do not legally have to move for those who want/more need the space whether that be wheelchair OR indeed buggy user (often the second push onto packed buses at rush hour demanding their slot) It just so happened there was a buggy user there in this case, and she refused to move and legally she didn’t have to move. The reality is if there is someone who needs the space more than you and they can be accommodated you should move. If you are a total c*nt and choose not to the law can’t make you. The descision will probably be upheld.



6.—(1) No passenger on a vehicle shall–

(b)put at risk or unreasonably impede or cause discomfort to any person travelling on or entering or leaving the vehicle, or a driver, inspector, conductor or employee of the operator when doing his work on the vehicle;

(2) Any passenger on a vehicle who contravenes any provision of these Regulations may be removed from the vehicle by the driver, inspector or conductor of the vehicle or, on the request of the driver, inspector or conductor, by a police constable.

The above is from the Public Service Vehicles (Conduct of Drivers, Inspectors, Conductors and Passengers) Regulations 1990. These Regulations were made pursuant to sections 24(1) and 25(1) of the Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981. Contravention of any regulation made under those sections of the 1981 Act is a criminal offence. An offender is therefore liable to a fine on summary conviction (sections 24(2) and 25(3) of the 1981 Act).

Passengers are therefore under a criminal obligation not to unreasonably impede any person travelling on or entering the vehicle. The bus driver therefore has the right to ask anybody standing in the open space in a bus to shift if they are causing an obstruction to passengers, and can insist they get off otherwise, and ultimately can eject such a passenger, or cause the police to do so; and the passenger can then be convicted and get a fine.

Of course, nobody has ever enfoced these regulations (to the best of my knowledge) but they are there.


Comments are closed.