A group of Irish travellers were discriminated against by a north London Wetherspoon pub, a court has ruled, leading to lawyers claiming victory in the fight against “acceptable racism”.

The Coronet in Holloway Road refused entry to delegates from an annual conference of the Irish Traveller Movement in Britain - now known as The Traveller Movement - in November 2011.

Its lawyers complained to the Central London County Court that a group of 15 people denied entry for racist reasons included travellers, a police inspector, a barrister and a priest.

Pub owners JD Wetherspoon denied allegations of discrimination, but Judge John Hand QC ruled there had been direct discrimination and awarded damages totalling £24,000.

A Wetherspoon spokesman confirmed eight claimants against the pub chain were successful.

Tim Martin, chairman of Wetherspoon, said: "Wetherspoon apologises to the eight individuals who were denied entry and for any upset and distress this caused to them.

"It is the first time that a claim of this nature has been brought against the company in the 35 years of its existence.

"In the light of the judgment, though we have always been fully committed to operating our premises in a non-discriminatory way, we will undertake a full review of our relevant policies, procedures and training."

Martin Howe, a solicitor with Howe & Co who acted for the travellers, said: "This judgment will shake to the core all those who engage in racist conduct towards Irish travellers and Romany gypsies.

"The last bastion of 'acceptable racism' has come crashing down."