“I am a salaried Employment Judge based in Manchester from 2019. Prior to this appointment I sat as a fee-paid Employment Tribunal Judge in Wales and I continue to sit on cases in Wales, particularly in mid and North Wales which involve Welsh speaking parties or witnesses.
The Welsh Language Act 1993 gives the right for any party, witness or other person in Wales who wants to use Welsh in any legal proceedings to do so. That reflects the principle that in the administration of justice in Wales, the English and Welsh languages should be treated equally. I enjoy helping to make that right a reality by enabling parties to use Welsh in tribunal hearings when they want to.
The extent of Welsh used in hearings varies; in some cases, the whole hearing is conducted in Welsh and in others some of the witnesses will choose to give their evidence in Welsh with the rest of the hearing being conducted in English. For those cases involving a mixture of Welsh and English speakers we have access to interpreters who provide simultaneous translation from Welsh to English and vice versa.
I grew up speaking Welsh but having not used it regularly in my legal career before being appointed as a judge I did have concerns about whether I would be fluent enough in ‘legal Welsh’. In practice there are lots of resources available to help with that. There’s a growing library of Welsh language precedents and the Welsh Language Unit provide support in checking or translating judgments and orders. They are also very helpful in providing quick answers to specific questions like ‘what’s the Welsh for KC?’. The Judicial College holds Welsh Language seminars which gives a chance to share experiences and learn from colleagues conducting Welsh Language cases in other jurisdictions.
I would encourage anyone considering applying to sit as an Employment Judge to do so. It can be challenging but can also be extremely satisfying. Sitting in North Wales has the added benefit of giving the opportunity to visit a variety of sitting venues from Mold to Caernarfon. As the tribunal moves towards greater use of digital files, it’s easier to keep in touch with and access ‘HQ’ in Cardiff so you feel in touch with colleagues even if you sit primarily in North Wales. Being able to use Welsh as part of the role brings the added satisfaction of knowing you are enabling parties and witnesses to participate in the language they feel most comfortable using.”