June 21, 2009

Jewish couple sues over light sensor at holiday flats

by David Masters

An Orthodox Jewish couple are suing neighbours at their holiday flat in Dorset because new motion sensors installed in the flat’s communal hallway force them to break the laws of the Sabbath.

Dr Dena Coleman, headteacher of a Jewish Orthodox school, and her husband Gordon, claim they cannot leave or enter their holiday flat on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, because to do so would switch on the hallway light, breaching biblical laws.

Orthodox Jews believe the biblical law against lighting fires on the Sabbath extends to switching on electric lights.

The Colemans contend that the motion sensor activated lights violate their human rights, and are suing the flats’ management company for failing to accommodate their religion.

If the Colemans’ allegation is upheld, the other 35 owners of the seaside flats in Bournemouth will be liable for court costs.

A letter from the Colemans to the other 35 flat owners said: “Faced with a situation where we could never again have full use of our flat, we were left with no alternative but to seek legal advice.”

It added that solicitors had advised them they have a ‘strong’ claim.

The couple said they will drop the case if a switch to override the motion sensor is installed and the management company compensates them for legal costs.

Neighbours at the flats are frustrated at the Colemans taking legal action.

“There has been a meeting about it and many of the residents are not happy,” one resident said.

“There is a feeling that things should not be changed just to suit people in one flat when everyone else is happy with it.”

Another resident said that by taking legal action, the Colemans had “blown out of all proportion” the dispute over motion sensors.

“They did come to a meeting and put their point of view forward,” the resident said.

“The general view was that despite any differences the matter should be resolved as quickly as we can. ”

The Colemans say they bought the flat six years ago on the understanding that motion sensors would not be installed in communal areas.

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