A woman from Leeds has won her compensation fight over the lack of sign language for two No10 Covid briefings. 

Katie Rowley, a deaf woman in her 30’s, took legal action against Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove. Rowley complained there were no British Sign Language interpreters for two of the 173 Government Covid-19 briefings in England. 

Similar briefings by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, and from Stormont in Northern Ireland included British Sign Language interpreters on screen. 


Ms Rowley, a self-employed actor, and writer said the Government had breached obligations to make broadcasts accessible to deaf people under equality legislation. 

Ministers disputed this and lawyers representing Mr Gove said Ms Rowley’s claim should be dismissed.

However, on Wednesday, a judge based in London made a ruling in Ms Rowley’s favour.

Mr Justice Fordham said the absence of any British sign language interpretation for “data briefings” on September 21, 2020, and October 12, 2020 constituted “discrimination” against Ms Rowley.

He said damages would be assessed by a judge in a county court and added that the Government was not “in present or continuing breach”. 

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the court ruled our policy of using on-screen British Sign Language interpreters was lawful during the pandemic.

“Our priority has always been to reach the largest possible audience with important public information and we will continue to ensure that British Sign Language interpretation is made available during COVID 19 briefings.”