News from Celtic Press
A man has been sent to jail in Wales for refusing to pay his fine, because it was not written in the Welsh language.
Welsh language campaigner and member of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (a Welsh language organisation), Jamie Bevan received a fine for breaking into the office of Conservative Cardiff North MP Jonathan Evans, in protest over UK government funding cuts to Welsh TV channel, S4C last year. During the break-in Mr Bevan painted a slogan on a wall calling for a genuine television service for Welsh-speaking communities and alerted police to the break in, who he phoned from the Conservative Party offices in Cardiff.
As a result of the incident Mr Bevan was originally sentenced to jail for seven days to run alongside five days for the damage caused to the offices, but served only half the sentence. His fellow Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg member, Heledd Williams, of Gwynedd, was given a 12-month conditional discharge and told to pay £600 compensation for her part in the break in.
Now this week Mr Bevan, father of four children and a Welsh teacher from Merthyr Tydfil, was sentenced to 35 days behind bars for failing to pay £1,021 in damages for the break in. Mr Bevan told magistrates that he had no intention of paying the fine, even though he had the finances to do so, because the court order was written in English only. Mr Bevan said that he had written three times to the court requesting that the order to pay the money be made in Welsh, which they did not comply with. Mr Bevan told the Magistrate that it was a “privilege” to serve his sentence, which was followed by applause from the spectators who had gathered in court to hear the verdict.
Labour MP Susan Elan Jones and Plaid Cymru President and MEP Jill Evans issued a joint statement supporting Mr Bevan, saying:
“”I am keen to declare my support for Jamie Bevan in his court case today in Merthyr following his actions in the campaign to save S4C. The fact that Jamie has twice received an English language summons and an English language hearing is completely unacceptable.
“It’s very important that the Welsh Language Commissioner shows she is able to secure rights for the people of Wales to use the Welsh language and the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 makes a positive difference to people’s everyday lives.”
Mr Bevan told the court:
“Over the last year and a half I have followed completely constitutional means in complaining about the patchy and fragmented Welsh language service from the courts and justice system. I have received apology after apology with assurances that the systems are being put in place to make sure that these so-called mistakes don’t happen again. But the monolingual letters continue, the phone service with a Welsh language option which leads nowhere, and the sneering and disrespect from the courts staff, the police and the security staff.
“According to your language scheme, there is no right for a Welsh person to get a hearing in front of a Welsh language court. It says that you will try to provide a Welsh language court, but if you can’t do that you will provide a translator.
“Welsh speakers are under an enormous disadvantage when receiving a court hearing through the medium of a translator as a translator cannot enable the individual to communicate directly with the judge or magistrate. Actually, many lawyers advise their clients not to choose a Welsh language court case because they recognise that disadvantage. It’s a disgraceful situation in the Wales of today.
“Your language schemes also set out an employment strategy based on the area’s language profile. So, employing Welsh language speakers to enable a court to provide a Welsh language service depends on the percentage of local speakers and the whim of the court manager. How can you justify the fact that a Welsh person from Merthyr gets a deficient service while someone else in another part of the country receives a better service? Welsh people in every part of Wales have a moral right to use Welsh to its fullest extent.
“I have no intention of conforming. I have no intention of paying a single penny of the fine although I can do so easily financially. Do as you please with me. I accept any result gladly.”
Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg issued a report on the court case, which can be found by clicking on the links below:
Supporters can write to Jaimie Bevan at the address below:
1 Ffordd Knox,
CAERDYDD CF24 0UG