After 500 Years the Celtic Tongue Set to Regain Dominance within the Welsh Legal System

An increase of the number of court cases conducted in Welsh is in the offing according to a report issued by Roger Thomas, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales.

Citing an “increased awareness” of the impact of devolution in Wales the report suggests the way is being paved for a significant increase in the use of Welsh in the court room and in the “general administration of justice in Wales”.

Citing the dramatic increases in Welsh speakers as a factor, the BBC reported the following summary of the annual report: “There were 570 cases heard in Welsh in 2015-16, including one judicial review, and that figure is anticipated to rise to 600-700 by the end of this year. A third of circuit judges, a third of district judges and just under half of magistrates' courts district judges are now able to conduct cases in Welsh. The number of Welsh speaking judges has also risen."  

Welsh speakers are being actively recruited for jobs in the legal system. The BBC quotes a Courts and Tribunals Judiciary spokesman who stated, "processes have been adapted" to recruit judges to posts requiring Welsh language skills. This being just the latest example of economic forces driving up the value of Welsh language skills in the marketplace.

Significantly for the future health of the Welsh language the expansion of Welsh usage in the criminal justice system will cause increased demand for welsh proficiency. Court recorders, secretarial staff and High Street law firms will be under pressure to provide services in Welsh. Welsh will become more and more valuable in the overall economy which in turn leads to increased demand for Welsh medium education.

A tipping point will soon be reached.

In 1535 Parliament under Henry VIII passed a series of anti-Welsh language laws which made English the language of the courts.  These laws were modified in 1942 and again in 1967 but it was not until 1993 under the “Welsh Language Act 1993” that the law was changed so that "…in the course of public business and the administration of justice, so far as is reasonably practicable, the Welsh and English languages are to be treated on the basis of equality." 

500 years or so is a long time to wait for an historic wrong to be righted but it looks like that is exactly what is happening.

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