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Simon Butler found guilty
Monday June 16, 2014 - Email this article to a friend

A British ski instructor has been sentenced to 200 days in jail or he can avoid prison by paying a €30,000 fine. He has appeared in court in Bonneville, France, accused of teaching without the correct qualifications.

The court gave its verdict on Monday afternoon and he was found guilty. 

He was ordered to pay the fine or go to jail.

"If he does not pay, he may be compelled to go to prison", said the President of the legal tribunal at Bonneville in the Hautes-Savoie region of the Alps.

Simon Butler has lodged an immediate appeal and has said he is prepared to go to prison if necessary.

"I did not expect it all to go my way today but to be sentenced to a jail term is ludicrous," he said to PlanetSKI straight after the case.

"French justice does not exist at all and it is all down to local mountain politics. The judge even told me to go and work in Switzerland even though I still maintain I have all the correct qualifications," he added.

Simon Butler flew out from the UK on Monday morning and was in the dock as the verdict was announced. 

He travelled back to the UK after the case and is considering his next move with the appeal pending.

He was arrested back in February this year and spent a night in the cells; see here for the full PlanetSKI report on his arrest.

Mr Butler and 6 other British instructors who worked for the company, Simon Butler Skiing, were arrested while teaching on the slopes of Megeve.

They were accused of teaching without the correct qualifications.

Here is our earlier story previewing the case with much of the background to a complex case.

On Monday the other instructors were fined €1,000 - €4,000 each by the Correctional Court of Bonneville .

The case itself, when the arguments for both sides was presented, was heard back in April 2014.

At the court case last April 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".

The defence team for Mr Butler said he is qualified under British rules and that is sufficient.  His team argued that the French authorities were not complying with EU law on the free movement of labour.

In a long-running and complex case Simon Butler produced evidence that he was teaching legally, including his license issued by the British Association of Snowsports Instructors.

Ski instructor's licenseSki instructor's license








It shows that he had the top-level ISTD qualification but this has apparently not been recognised by the French court. 

If this is the case then it may affect the other British instructors who have the ISTD level and believe they are teaching in France legally.

Here at PlanetSKI we have not read the full judgement yet and we will be looking into the matter as it has serious implications.

His legal team says the appeal will go to a court in Chambery but it will take many months to set a date and prepare a legal case.

In the meantime Mr Butler will be unable to work in France as a ski instructor.

"We'd love to go all the way to Brussels to have it looked at under European Law but it will need to go to a regional court in Chambery first and then perhaps the national court in Paris before going to Brussels. Only then could it be properly looked at under European Law and the free movement of labour," said Simon Butler.

He said that his business, that he has been running in Megeve for 30-odd years, has been severely damaged.

Simon Butler has not been supported by his professional organisation, the British Association of Snowsports Instructors, BASI.

After the orginal case back in April 2014 it made the following statement.

"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.

For a related PlanetSKI article on the various teaching levels that British instructors undertake and what is recognised by the French then see this story from the veteran ski instructor, Phil Smith.

Simon ButlerSimon Butler












The story in much of the UK media has been reported as the French authorities attacking British instructors. That is not the case.

Around 350 British instructors work in France and most are entirely happy with the current situation and, as stated above, BASI is not supporting Simon Butler.

The French court has simply upheld the current French law as it interprets it.

Of perhaps wider interest is to ask the question whether ski instructors have to be qualified to such a high standard to teach the sport to mainly 1-week a year holiday skiers.

There may be 350 British instructors who can teach legally in France, but there are many thousands more who are qualified to a high level, albeit not the highest.

They are not able to work in France with their lower qualification from BASI.

They need to work in Switzerland, Italy and Austria and other nations. 

The French argue that the only British equivalent qualification to their own is the top-level BASI qualification. They believe that if their nationals have to reach that level, then so should everyone else.

In France teaching sport, along with many other professions, is highly regulated while in the UK it is less so.

Simon Butler SkiingSimon Butler Skiing












Do check back later on PlanetSKI for further updates and reaction.

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