Man who refused to pay English-language parking fine loses in court

Toni Schiavone outside the court after the case
Toni Schiavone outside the court after a previous case in the long-running legal dispute -Credit:Cymdeithas Yr Iaith

A Welsh language activist who refused to pay parking fine issued only in English has lost his case in court. Magistrates in Aberystwyth ruled against Toni Schiavone and allowed parking company One Parking Solution to claim costs in the extended legal dispute.

Mr Schiavone said he will continue to refuse to pay until he receives a copy of the notice from the parking company in Welsh. He received the original charge in September 2020 for parking in a private car park in Llangrannog, but refused to pay as he did not receive the charge in Welsh or bilingually, despite sending the company two letters as well as calling them.

The car park is under the management of One Parking Solution, which has its headquarters in Worthing in West Sussex. The car park has become notorious in west Wales over the past few years due to numerous complaints from visitors who have been hit with what they consider to be unfair fines. Some even said that the issue was "putting people off" visiting the beautiful Ceredigion beach. You can read more about that here.

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Welsh language group Cymdeithas yr Iaith reported the court this week said there was was no legal basis to force the parking company to provide a Welsh language service. Language campaigners insist that this demonstrates a "serious flaw" in the legislation that protects the rights of Welsh speakers.

The first two cases were thrown out over technical issues, but at a hearing on 26 January this year, One Parking Solution won an appeal to continue to prosecute Mr Schiavone, after the judge ruled that there were no grounds to throw out the first two cases of the court.

Speaking during court proceedings on Monday, May 13, Toni Schiavone said: "The Welsh language is an official and equal language in Wales and we as Welsh speakers have rights according to the law, and in principle, that should be respected. The request for a Parking Charge Notice in Welsh or bilingually is reasonable and practical. It would have cost around £60 to translate.

"This case could have been resolved very easily and very quickly by providing a Welsh or bilingual Parking Charge Notice. Does not doing so show prejudice against the Welsh language? In my opinion, it does."

Supporters outside the court in Aberystwyth
Supporters outside the court in Aberystwyth on Monday -Credit:Cymdeithas yr Iaith

Mr Schiavone told the court that the claimant had behaved threateningly, sending him a letter claiming £10,156.70 in legal expenses a day before his hearing in January as well as another letter with additional costs of over £4,000 two days before today's case. According to research by Cymdeithas yr Iaith, translating the fine into Welsh would have cost only £60.

The judge Lowri Williams said that Toni had behaved in an "honest, principled" manner during the case, and had shown an "unwavering dedication to the Welsh language and the cause for the language."

However, she said during her verdict that there was nothing in the 1967 Welsh Language Act, the 1993 Welsh Language Act, or the 2011 Welsh Language Measure to compel the parking company to provide a Welsh language service.

She therefore ordered that Toni pay the £100 charge, as well as £70 for administrative costs, £11.90 interest and £85 for the court fee within 21 days.

After explaining her ruling and order, Toni Schiavone said "I understand, but I refuse to pay."

Following the case, Siân Howys, Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith's Rights Group, said: "The judgment shows that - despite the Welsh Government's claim - the Welsh language does not have equal status in Wales. The judge has done her work thoroughly and found that there is nothing in the legislation that ensures that Toni's right to use his own language in his own country is respected.

"It is clear, therefore, that the Welsh Government needs to correct the serious flaw in the legislation in order to ensure that the people of Wales can use the Welsh language in all aspects of their lives."