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Disabled Highland woman hits out at 'supermarket ban discrimination'

By Philip Murray

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Lisa MacLeod, who has criticised the Co-op following an incident at a store. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Lisa MacLeod, who has criticised the Co-op following an incident at a store. Picture: Callum Mackay.

A distraught Beauly woman fears she will struggle to shop for basic essentials after claiming she was banned from her local supermarket.

Lisa MacLeod, who has frontal lobe brain damage and suffers PTSD, severe anxiety and other health issues following a serious assault several years ago, has accused the Co-op of discrimination after an incident in Beauly's Station Road store which she says led to her being "banned for life".

She argues that the incident stemmed from her severe anxiety and dissociative disorder amnesia – which can make those with it forgetful – after she got confused at the till while struggling to remember which of her three cash cards had sufficient funds to pay for her latest shopping.

Amid her rising panic she claims someone identifying as a manager, but who did not give their name, approached her and banned her for 'deliberately' confusing the shop's staff.

And she has now accused the Co-op of discrimination, arguing that the incident stemmed from her mental health disabilities.

She added that her physical health means it's difficult for her to walk to alternative stores farther away in the village – such as the Scotmid in The Square – and that epilepsy stemming from her past brain injury means she's no longer able to drive further afield instead.

"It's the only shop I can walk to because [of my health issues]," she said. "Now for basic things I need something close to me, but I'm having to walk all the way down the street [for alternative shops]."

The Co-op in Beauly's Station Road. Picture: Callum Mackay.
The Co-op in Beauly's Station Road. Picture: Callum Mackay.

She continued: "He barred me for getting confused at the till and that is ridiculous.

"The manager said 'I don't care' when I told them I was brain damaged and had got confused.

"His words were that I was deliberately confusing the staff at the till. I'm sorry, I can't help that, I'm disabled."

She added that she felt any ban over the incident would be excessive, adding: "I'm not a shoplifter and not a thief."

She also said that her severe anxiety and brain trauma mean that when she becomes upset her personality can change. "I feel safe in my carer's house and my house but when I go out, that is when the panic starts for no reason.

"I have disassociative disorder amnesia. When upset, my personality changes because of all the trauma I have been through, I've never been the same [since the assault] and had to quit my job with the NHS, and I'm not allowed to drive anymore because of my epilepsy."

Ms MacLeod's carer and friend Ashley Kerr, who also lives in Beauly, had accompanied her to the shop on the day of the alleged incident.

Ms Kerr said: "I accompanied my friend to the shop due to her struggling to leave the house alone, this is caused by PTSD. She also suffers with severe anxiety and short-term memory loss. After going around the shop to pick her week's shop, when at the till her cards declined and she was very upset and confused as there was money in one account – she just couldn't work out which card.

"Due to pressure and the staff reaction and treatment of her, she got in a panic and couldn't get the correct card to work. She was then approached and asked to leave the shop and banned for life for 'deliberately confusing staff'.

"I feel, as her carer and only support, she has been treated very unjustly. Her physical health does not warrant her to walk far and her mental health stops her from going out of the area so now she is left with nowhere to shop and this has caused her severe stress and embarrassment."

Responding to Ms MacLeod's claims of discrimination, a spokesperson for the Co-op said it was looking into the incident but stressed that it is an "inclusive organisation" known for socially-conscious and ethical business practices.

The spokesperson said: “Co-op is an inclusive organisation, fully committed to serving and supporting the diverse needs of its communities. It is looking into the situation.”

They added that, while the company looks into the incident and Ms MacLeod's claims, that no ban is in place.

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