Page last updated at 17:16 GMT, Tuesday, 16 June 2009 18:16 UK

Light sensors cause religious row

A couple have taken legal action after claiming motion sensors installed at their holiday flat in Dorset breached their rights as Orthodox Jews.

Gordon and Dena Coleman said they cannot leave or enter their Bournemouth flat on the Sabbath because the hallway sensors automatically switch on lights.

The couple's religious code bans lights and other electrical equipment being switched on during Jewish holidays.

They have now issued a county court writ claiming religious discrimination.

They also claim breach of their rights under the Equality Act 2006 and Human Rights Act 1998 and the case is due to be heard at Bournemouth County Court next month.

It has gone further than it should have done, I think they have jumped the gun

The light sensors were installed at Embassy Court in Gervis Road to save money and energy but the couple, who live in Hertfordshire, felt they breached their religious rules.

Dr Coleman and her husband offered to pay for an override switch as a compromise but Embassy Court Management Company rejected this and the couple took legal advice.

They have said they will drop the legal action if an override switch is installed and their legal costs and compensation are paid.

The firm said almost all residents supported the installation of the sensors and taking legal action was the Colemans' "prerogative".

Other residents in the block of 35 flats, who could end up having to pay legal costs, are upset.

Neighbours meeting

One of them, who did not wish to be named but attended a management meeting last week with the couple, said: "For some time there has been discussions around here about the lights being on all day, which is crazy.

"Light sensors mean the lights only come on when you require them to be on, which is common sense.

"This couple are observant Jews. They have a religious problem with this.

"It has gone further than it should have done, I think they have jumped the gun.

"They did come to a meeting and put their point of view forward.

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

"It just seems to have been blown out of all proportion."

In a letter to the other residents, the couple said they sought legal help because the sensor lights meant they would never again have full use of their flat.

They also said that their solicitors told them they had a strong claim.

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