A pensioner has won his final court battle against Westminster City Council who sought to ban him from ‘playing dominoes loudly’ at a West London square. Ernest Theophile,74, says he was ‘in tears’ after the conclusion of the 18-month ordeal which left him ‘depressed’ and ‘lonely’.
The Windrush generation Londoner was unable to freely socialise with friends at Maida Hill Market Square – a predominantly Caribbean area, after an interim injunction was taken out by the now formerly Conservative-run council. The pensioner faced being fined or arrested if the council deemed him responsible for noise and anti-social behaviour at the busy public square.
Despite having limited resources to fight the injunction, through the help of locals, a vicar and Grenfell campaigner Jacqui Haynes- Judge Baucher ruled in favour of Ernest on Windrush Day June 22, 2022.
READ MORE: Pensioner who could be arrested for playing dominoes loudly ‘feeling good’ after first day in court battle against council
(Image: Ernest Theophile)
Ernest said: “There are times when I’ve been virtually in tears before. I’m feeling tearful now only because I’ve achieved something. We’ve achieved something. I stood my ground. I can go down there now and I can socialise and I will spend all my days down there.”
Along with Ernest, another man – Brian Boswell – was also named by the council on the injunction which was printed and hung on the gates of public toilets around the market in 2021. However, Mr Boswell had died two years before the injunction was obtained in 2019, which left his family outraged by the accusation from the council.
On June 22, 2022, Judge Baucher presided over the case and found that Westminster Council had obtained the court order unlawfully and had failed to take into consideration its equalities duties. When Ernest was first notified about the injunction he immediately turned to campaigner and chair of Grenfell recovery centre Curve – Jacqui Haynes who worked tirelessly to get legal aid for the pensioner.
During the final court hearing on June 22 at Central London County Court Jacqui appeared via Teams in the foyer of St Mary’s hospital while assisting a family member. After the hearing concluded Jacqui says she informed the community and Brixton Soup kitchen provided food for locals to celebrate.
She said: “It’s a big blow to injustice. It shows people that we can do it. We don’t have to just be trodden on and accept it can’t be done. And for me, that’s the biggest part of what we’ve done. I had to go to court and I had to hold the first few cases myself because we didn’t have legal representation.
“[Ernest] is not computer literate. He and I conducted the first part of the hearing sitting in the foyer [of the hospital]. That’s how it is for people like us because we don’t have the facilities. We don’t have the workforce and we don’t have the resources that Westminster has to smash us. So we had to do it like that.”
The campaigner says that those of the Windrush generation are ‘unwanted’ despite being brought in to help the country.
She said: “[Windrush generation] have been treated like, ‘yeah, our country needs some help so we’re going to draft you into the motherland’. Then, ‘all right now, we’ve finished people, p*** off, we don’t need you. We don’t want you or have any care or provision for you.’”
Ernest, who is also known as Popcorn, says that the square has been a lifeline for him during his retirement years in the UK, a long way from Dominica where he was born.
He said: “When you’re alone, you’re alone. I know what it means to be alone. I’m not with anybody. My kids are grown up, my grandkids are grown up. I don’t especially want them to come around and look after me and things like that. I want to be able to just look after myself. Whatever time I’ve got left in this life.
“When we’re back home [in Dominica], we get together outside with music, drink a little rum and the day passes by. I was helping people there because a lot of them have mental problems. So I’ve been trying in many, many ways [to help].
“In actual fact, if it wasn’t for these dominoes out there that I started, worse things would have happened to people there without a doubt.”
Ernest and Jacqui are urging the council to provide a space for them and dominoes players to gather on a permanent basis.
The pensioner said: “In the wintertime, we used to put on coats and huddle up in the snow and sit outside in the freezing cold. We don’t have a lot left in life and our health is not what it used to be. So we want the council to give us somewhere where we can just sit down and play dominoes, play a little backgammon.”
Campaigner Jacqui Haynes credits people-power for their victory and says that the council should serve the community.
She said: “We have the power. What we do is we let them take the power and then we forget that we have the power, but they are our council. They are supposed to serve us.”
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