SIMPLE Intelligent Parking Ltd has lost a civil case against a motorist over an unpaid £160 fine. The ruling was made after the company failed to provide bilingual information to Elysteg Llwyd Thomas from Dyffryn Nantlle, Gwynedd, who had specifically requested correspondence in Welsh.
Initially, Thomas received details of a £60 fine from the parking firm in English. In response, she informed the company that she would be willing to pay once they sent all communications bilingually, including a copy of the fine. However, her request was ignored, and subsequently, the penalty was increased to £100 and later raised again to £160.
Represented by her father, Eifion Lloyd Jones, a member of the Welsh language campaign group Dyfodol i’r Iaith, Thomas took the case to court in Caernarfon. Judge Merfyn Jones-Evans rejected the parking company’s application and issued a judicial warning stipulating that all car park signs in Wales must be bilingual.
In his ruling, Judge Jones-Evans referred to the Protection of Freedom Act 2012 and stated that notices in Welsh or English only were insufficient in Wales. The judgment highlighted that adequate notices must be provided in both languages.
Following the case, Jones expressed hope that the judge’s warning would put an end to the penalization of Welsh speakers who request correspondence in Welsh. However, he acknowledged that the struggle may continue for some time.
Dylan Rhys Jones, head of the School of Law at Glyndwr University in Wrexham, commented on the case, stating that no precedent had been set, and a different decision could be reached in another case. He also noted that if individuals continued to challenge fines issued in English only and companies recognized the cost-effectiveness of providing documentation in Welsh, it would incentivize the provision of bilingual materials.
In response to the ruling, Simple Intelligent Parking Ltd expressed disappointment and stated their intention to appeal against the decision, deeming it legally incorrect.
Welsh Language Commissioner Efa Gruffudd Jones highlighted her ongoing dialogue with various parking companies, noting that many have already begun adapting their machines, websites, and apps to include the Welsh language.