Welsh-speaking lawyers practice their language skills
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Publié le 4/11/03 17:14 -- mis à jour le 00/00/00 00:00

Welsh-speaking lawyers practice their language skills

by Dafydd Meirion

The course was the idea of Emyr Parry, a retired district judge. ‘The object of the course was to give advocates at all levels an opportunity to conduct cases in the Welsh language,’ said Judge Parry. ‘This is absolutely essential if the provisions of the Welsh Language Act are properly applied. This will encourage people to use Welsh in the courts in the knowledge that their case will be presented to the highest possible standards.’

The course received the support of the Welsh Language Board. ‘I think that this is a very important and innovative approach to brushing up the use of Welsh in what is a specialist environment,’ said chief executive John Walter Jones. ‘This will support the rights of those who choose to use the Welsh language within the legal system. This is a first for the legal system and for the Welsh language.’

Llys y Goron Caernarfon ble mae llawer o'r achosion yn cael eu cynnal yn Gymraeg

Up until the 1960s, the Welsh language had no legal status within the courts system in Wales. During the first half of the 20th century there was a substantial number of monoglot Welsh-speakers and a greater number whose command of English was very limited. When they appeared in court, either as defendants or as witnesses, they could answer questions in Welsh which were then translated into English. None of the court proceedings were in Welsh. This changed during the 1960s when hundreds of Welsh-language activists appeared in courts throughout Wales after activities such as daubing English road signs and refusing to buy various licences as the forms were not available in Welsh. They also refused to take part in the English language proceedings.

The 1967 Welsh Language Act gave Welsh-speakers the right to be tried in Welsh although much of the testimony was translated for the benefit of non Welsh-speaking court officials. Over the years, the use of the language in various courts has increased and by now many of the cases in the Welsh-speaking heartlands are held entirely in Welsh. Although the participants may all be Welsh-speakers, they sometimes find it difficult to summon the formal vocabulary required in court, and it is for this reason that the course for judges and lawyers was held.

‘The course gave lawyers the chance to practice their language skills and increase their confidence,’ says Caernarfon-based lawyer and secretary of the Gwynedd Law Society, Merfyn Jones Evans, who organised the course. ‘The response was excellent,’ he added. ‘Everyone was delighted and said that the course was worthwhile. Most said that the course had given them confidence to use more of the language in the courts. In the beginning, many insisted on using archaic Welsh, and one thing that came out of the course was that it is acceptable to use everyday Welsh. Lawyers’ training is always through the medium of English, as are all the law books, therefore it isn’t all that easy to turn to the Welsh language. This course should make it easier for everyone. Both the police and the prosecution service have held similar courses and the hope now is that there will be much more use of the language in the courts.’

It is intended to organise a similar course in south Wales next June. (Eurolang)

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