Tuesday, June 29, 2010

"Callous" and "London-centric" and 100% legally justified

From the Daily Post:
PLAID Cymru has branded the government callous and London-centric after it ruled out the possibility of bilingual juries for good.

Arfon MP Hywel Williams quizzed coalition over whether it would review Labour’s decision preventing Welsh speaking panels sitting for cases involving native Welsh speakers.
"Callous"? An ever so slight touch of the hyperboles there and Mr Williams would do well to remember that "London-centric" government captured nearly four times as many seats in Wales as his own party.
But Tory Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly said official figures showed that it would mean excluding most of the population from selection.

He told MPs: “According to 2001 census results 21% of people in Wales said they could speak Welsh. That would amount to the exclusion, in every case involving a bilingual jury, of about four fifths of the population of Wales.

"I believe juries should be selected randomly from the community and am not convinced that departing from that principle would be justified in this instance."
William's answer to that is a strange one:
"The government's argument is that the introduction of a bilingual jury would remove the principle of random jury selection.

"What they have ignored is that there is already a language requirement – to speak English – enshrined in law."
That language is spoken by almost the entire population of Wales (and those that don't are entitled to a translator in court), Welsh is not.
Having an English language requirement therefore guarantees the widest possible choice of jury selection, Welsh does not- a clear example of an open and shut case.


Alwyn ap Huw said...

To be found guilty or not guilty of a heinous crime because of the inflections of a translator rather than by your own inflections and body language is callous and unjust. To be forced to speak in poor English because you are frightened that a translator might not get the sincerity of your defence / contrition across properly is also callous and unjust.

Crown Court hearings in Caernarfon are quite often 100% Welsh. The defendant, the witnesses from both sides (including the police), the council, the judge and all members of the jury are competent Welsh speakers.

The problem arises when one or two jury members are chosen in an otherwise Welsh language trial.

A translator is not allowed into the jury deliberations. So having heard all the evidence in Welsh the 10 or 11 have to deliberate in English for the sake of the one or two. That is daft and can lead to a miscarriage of justice.

All Hywel is asking for is to bump a juror or two for the sake of equality in one or two areas where getting a balanced jury representative of the whole population would not be a problem.

In NI I suspect that you see the Gaelic language issue as a "one community issue". Welsh in Wales isn't so! The person most likely to use Welsh in our Assembly isn't some extremist who supports SF, put Paul Davies a Conservative member for a constituency in which fewer than half the electorate speak Welsh.

Dilettante said...

Thank goodness for this. Ligual resurrection is not and should not be the business of government, and nationalist dogma should not be allowed to gain a foothold in the justice system. How long until some DUP hardliner demands trials in Ulster Scots, I wonder...

O'Neill said...

"In NI I suspect that you see the Gaelic language issue as a "one community issue"."

The Irish language is indeed a political issue in NI, rather than a purely cultural one but personally (I am actually a part of the "Language Industry"!) I have no problem with the promotion of the language. If you were to criticise my stance, it would need to be more on the grounds of Philistinism rather than political/cultural bigotry.

My view is that the promotion of the Welsh/Irish/Scottish language is no more deserving of my hard-earned taxes than the Covent Garden Opera or the redevelopment of Windsor Park; in other words, they don't deserve it as of right.

In cases like the one I've posted on here, an overwhelming *objective* case which needs to be made to persuade me. Hywell hasn't done that. My understanding (and limited experience, having visited my youngest sister when she was studying at Lampeter) is that very, very few Welsh speakers would be speaking "poor" English, an almost 100% bilingualism would exist. That being the case, a jury selection system based on knowledge of the minority language is one which inhibits the randomness of selection which is the main advantage of this form of justice

Alwyn ap Huw said...

By using the term a "minority language" you miss the point entirely, in the areas of Caernarfon and Carmarthen Crown Courts, Welsh is NOT a minority language it is the primary language of the community, it is the language used by cops and robbers; by judges and solicitors. Why shouldn't it also be the language of jurors?

O'Neill said...

It is a minority language in Wales as a whole and from what I could understand the AM in question is not wanting to limiting Welsh juries merely to majority Welsh-speaking you mentioned? Even if he is, would there not be an incredibly complicated, bureaucratic and legal nightmare involved in deciding which areas should have this provision?

Widening the question with such a precedent, then would he and you agree that in certain council areas of E London and the northern mill towns, Hindi, Punjabi- etc speaking jurists could be justified using the same principle?