Blind BBC journalist mocked by LBC’s Steve Allen could sue radio host

Blind BBC journalist who was mocked by LBC’s Steve Allen for using a guide horse due to his fear of dogs could sue radio host after ‘unsatisfactory’ Ofcom ruling

  •  Mohammed Salim Patel, 24, used a guide horse instead of a guide dog
  •  The two-year-old American miniature horse Digby was the UK’s first 
  •  LBC presenter Steve Allen said ‘if he’s blind, tell him it’s a rabbit or something’

A blind journalist who became the first person in the UK to use a miniature guide horse is seeking legal advice after he was mocked on air by LBC presenter Steve Allen.   

Mohammed Salim Patel, 24, from Blackburn, Lancashire, was using two-year-old American miniature horse Digby because of his fear of dogs – until the horse grew too big. 

In a broadcast on October 1, Allen, who is on air between 4am and 7am, said he’d ‘never heard of anything so stupid’ while discussing a story on Digby published last month.

He also said on air: ‘Well if he’s blind, tell him it’s a rabbit or something. I’ve never heard of anything so stupid.

‘This is the blind man scared of dogs hoping that a horse will guide him on his commute. Where are you going to take that for goodness sake?’

In December, communications regulator Ofcom upheld a complaint that Allen’s comments had been offensive. 

Mohammed Salim Patel, 24, with Cali the guide horse in the US. He was mocked for using the horse over a dog but is scared of dogs

Digby, who had reached 33 inches in height, just two inches taller than the maximum height for a conventional guide horse of 31 inches, is set to be placed with a taller owner by current trainer Katy Smith, 58, from Northallerton, Yorks.

Katy, who has spent months painstakingly training Digby and works with other miniature horses to provide therapy for blind people, also said she was ‘appalled’ Allen’s comments.  

In its ruling, Ofcom said: ‘Mr Allen seemed to be implying that people who are blind cannot differentiate between a rabbit and a dog.

Watchdog Ofcom found that Allen’s early-morning show broke broadcasting rules with ‘potentially highly offensive’ comments about blind peopl

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‘We considered that this remark could have been interpreted as belittling blind people and offering a highly pejorative view of them.

‘Further, Mr Allen repeatedly questioned, in dismissive terms, the practicality of using a guide horse and emphatically dismissed what was an individual’s choice to equip himself in this way as ‘ludicrous’.

‘He also concluded that the man in question should be denied this choice (‘He’s afraid of dogs. Why? Why’s he afraid of dogs? Well don’t give him – don’t give him anything at all then. Just give him a white stick’).

‘In our view the potential offence was exacerbated by Steve Allen mocking the idea that the BBC had employed a blind cameraman.’

Mohammad Salim Patel,24, with his former guide-horse Digby he used until the horse grew too big

Katy said: ‘It’s very offensive. Guide horses are all about independence and giving people a better quality of life.

‘Mohammed has decided that Digby has grown too big for him, and is looking elsewhere for a smaller guide horse.

‘I am continuing to work with Digby and my other miniature horses to provide therapy including guiding for blind people’.’

Reacting to the Ofcom ruling, Mohammed, who has degenerative eye condition retinitis pigmentosa, added: ‘I’m quite annoyed at what Steve Allen said.

‘I’m not satisfied by the Ofcom ruling in the slightest and I’m seeking legal advice.’

LBC said in its response to Ofcom that the programme is ‘centred around (Steve Allen’s) unique and acerbic take on the news of the day’.

The response added that he ‘provides fast-moving opinions on the headlines and rarely dwells on one topic for any significant amount of time’ and said his comment on the Mr Patel’s story ‘had a total duration of less than a minute’.

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