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British ski instructor faces jail for allegedly teaching illegally
Tuesday April 8, 2014 - Email this article to a friend

The British instructor, Simon Butler, has appeared in court in France charged with teaching without the correct qualifications. The prosecutor has called for a custodial sentence. A verdict will be handed down in June.

51-year old Simon Butler appeared in court in Bonneville in France on Monday.

He posed for photographs outside the court and then appeared before the three judges.

We previewed the court case in this earlier PlanetSKI story that contains all the background to the complex case with some of the arguments and counter-arguments from either side.

Mr Butler and 6 other British instructors who worked for the company, Simon Butler Skiing, were arrested while teaching on the slopes of Megeve in February. They were accused of teaching without the correct qualifications.

The case was due to start at 4pm but was delayed till 6pm and it concluded at 9.40pm.

He was questioned by the judge and then the prosecutor put forward the case against him.

It called for a year's jail sentence with 8-months suspended and a fine of €10,000.

The prosecution described his actions as an "obstinate refusal to abide by the law" and it went on to say that he had "never taken the slightest step to conform to the French law".

It called for suspended sentences for the other six instructors involved.

The defence followed and it said why the qualifications that the British instructors have is enough and that the French authorities were not complying with EU law on the free movement of labour.

"My legal team put forward a strong and carefully argued case and I'm confident of success. I'm very glad the case has now been heard and I just want to get the result so I can plan ahead for next winter," said Simon Butler to PlanetSKI after the case.

Mr Butler and the others are all qualified by the British Association of Snowsport Instructors, BASI, but the French authorities argue it is not an equivalent qualification to the French system.

There are 4 levels of instructor qualification under the BASI system and the French demand the top one.

The case has significant implications and has attracted widespread interest.

A group of Mr Butler's supporters was in the public gallery as well as other interested parties.

Mr Butler has told PlanetSKI that he is being victimised and the French authorities are trying to close down his business and drive British instructors out of the Alps.

"The case has been very stressful for me and I am also considering moving my business to Switzerland where the qualifications I have are recognised," he said.

The French though argue that the same rules apply to all ski teachers, whatever their nationality, and it is just implementing the law in France and protecting the standards of ski instruction.

The court will hand down its ruling on June 16th after considering the arguments and submissions from both sides.

It is likely either losing side will appeal when the judgment is given and the case would then go to a higher French court.

It could go all the way to Brussels where a final decision will be made. It may have significant implications for other professions.

At present British instructors are allowed to teach in France if they hold the hightest qualification, Level 4. Around 350 British instructors currently teach in France quite legally.

The British Association of Snowsports Instructors, BASI, is not supporting Mr Butler and has issued a statement following the case.

"Mr Butler has had a number of opportunities to gain the right of establishment in France by submitting the appropriate documentation directly to the French Authorities. As far as BASI is aware Mr Butler has not undertaken to do so when these opportunities arose," said the statement.

"We understand that Simon Butler has knowingly compromised the legal working position of other instructors by employing them as sub-contracted instructors within his business. BASI will not support behaviour that BASI understands to be illegal in France or any other country where members chose to work," it added.

BASI went on to point out that the vast majority of BASI Members work successfully and without incident, within the law and abide by the regulations of their chosen country of operation including France.

It says it will follow the legal developments in France.

Mr Butler has criticised the response of BASI and he says the organisation is not working in the best interests of all its members.

"Should BASI not be supporting me as a member at the highest level and my rights to work in France?" he said after reading the statement from BASI.

The case has aroused much interest within the British ski industry and especially those ski instructors qualified by BASI.

One former BASI trainer, Julian Griffiths from the ski school European Snowsports, was in court in Bonnevile to observe proceedings.

He has posted the following comments and observations in the BASI members' Facebook forum on Tuesday.

"I went to France last night to observe the case. It was a serious business and I arrived more neutral than I left.

There were about 28 people in the court.

Three Judges, a clerk, a clerk of the court (an organiser), a Lawyer to represent the ESF in Megeve, The president of the ESF in Megeve, The state prosecutor, three TV crews and about 8 other journalists, Simon, Sumo & their lawyer, Jean Yves and an associate from Brussels, several friends of Simon, a Gendarme, a scruffy and it has to be said slightly dismissive fellow from the "ministry" and assorted others.

There was much discussion about BASI qualifications and some very eloquent performances by the lawyers of both sides. Both Simon Butler's team, The ESF and the prosecutor all made their points.

The Judge was very well informed and quizzed all sides with some vigour.

I was surprised by this.

Many of the issues and details that were discussed in court have been discussed widely on this forum.

The Judges will go off and make a verdict due on the 16th of June. I was disappointed to see that BASI had not sent an observer, all our qualifications and how they fit in were discussed at length.

I was disappointed to see a statement today from BASI in

Having been there I would hope that BASI won't say anything until this case has been decided and only then once all appeals have been heard."

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