Stewarts Law quadriplegic trainee takes London Marathon to court after race entry refused

Trainee quadriplegic lawyer Matt King, who was awarded an OBE for services to disability and charity in 2012, is challenging London Marathon organisers over their refusal to allow him entry to the 2013 event because he needs to use a motorised vehicle.   

Stewarts Law trainee King, who was the first quadriplegic to finish the New York marathon in 2007, has been refused a place in the London Marathon on three occasions since he first applied that year. 

Stewarts litigation head Clive Zietman is leading the claim for King, arguing that to prevent him from participating in the event would be in breach of the Equalities Act and amount to disability discrimination. Stewarts Law also claim that his entry was disallowed on health and safety grounds.

London Marathon is preparing to defend the case and has instructed West-End firm Kerman & Co litigation partner Carl Robinson. The defendant firm merged with Max Bitel Greene (MBG) last January (18 January 2012), leaving named partner Nick Bitel, who is also chief executive of London Marathon and chair of Sport England, as a consultant at the merged firm.

King, a second year trainee working in the aviation and travel department of Stewarts’ London office, was left paralysed from the neck down by a rugby league accident when he was 17.  

King said: “Since my accident there’s only so many things I can still do and I’ve sought to make the best of what I still have to offer. With my physical limitations I decided to go to university and pursue a career in law, and I’ve been able to do that as well as take part in the other marathons.

”It’s absurd that under the same rules I cannot compete in the London Marathon, where everybody comes together and shows what’s good in mankind. If I was paralysed from the waist down I’d be able to take part in the London Marathon, but because I’m paralysed from the neck down they’re saying I can’t take part. [This] is now a matter of principle.” 

Organisers of the London Marathon said rules ban the use of motorised equipment, such as a powered wheelchair.

Bitel responded: “Matt wants to take part using a motorised device. While anyone would sympathise with his position, the fact is the marathon is subject to the rules of governing bodies and those rules preclude the use of motorised devices.”

Proceedings were issued in mid-2012 and a trial is expected to be held in late January.