• France's news in English

Alps: Jail term demanded for British ski instructor

AFP/The Local · 8 Apr 2014, 08:33

Published: 08 Apr 2014 08:33 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

A French prosecutor called on Monday for a one-year sentence and a €10,000 ($14,000) fine for a British ski instructor charged with teaching without proper qualifications in one of France's poshest ski resorts.

The case against Simon Butler, who has been teaching clients how to ski in the French Alps for more than 30 years, goes to the heart of Europe's labour laws and has sparked outrage in his native country.

Despite having the highest-rated British ski instructor's licence, Butler has stubbornly refused to obtain qualifications needed to teach in France, in the face of repeated convictions and fines.

Pierre-Yves Michau, the prosecutor in the Alps town of Bonneville, cited the instructor's "obstinate refusal to abide by the law" in making his sentencing request. Eight months of the sentence would be suspended.

The ruling will be handed down on June 16.

Butler says France's refusal to recognise British certificates violates EU laws on freedom of movement, in particular a 2005 directive on Europe-wide recognition of qualifications.

"These are purely technical questions. There is no discrimination, no attack on the sacrosanct principle of free movement in the European Union," Michau said.

"Mr Butler does not represent his countrymen because there are hundreds of British ski instructors who teach in France without any problems."

'They don't want us here' 

Before the trial, Butler vowed to move his business - which employs 28 people and hosts about 100 guests a week from December to April - if he is convicted.

"If I lose this trial and if I can't keep working in France, I will take my 100 clients to Switzerland," he said.

The trial has sparked consternation in Britain, leading the French Embassy in London to deny there was a "piste war" taking place in the French Alps.

London Mayor Boris Johnson called the dispute "a complete, naked, shameless and unrepentant breach - by the French - of the principles of the European Single Market.

But Michau stressed that the 51-year-old Butler had "never taken the slightest step to conform to the French law."

He also called for fines for five other members of Butler's team and for a suspended prison sentence and a fine for another employee.

Story continues below…

Under French rules, foreign instructors have to pass the Eurotest, an integral part of the training of ski instructors in Austria, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The test involves completing a tough downhill slalom at racing speed.

Butler, who runs two hotels in Megeve, and his team all have the level three or four certificates issued by the British Association of Snowsport Instructors required by Britain to teach skiing on slopes like those in

France issues its own certificates from the Ecole du ski francais and does not automatically recognise the British equivalents.

Butler has alleged he is being targeted in a campaign to drive away foreign instructors and have them replaced with French ones.

"They don't want us here. They want to have us run out of town," he said.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

Some in France have shown solidarity with their new guests, while others have made it clear they are not welcome.

Lonely Planet says Bordeaux is world's best city to visit
The fantastic new Bordeaux wine museum. Photo: AFP

After The Local France, the Lonely Planet has followed suit by urging everyone to head to Bordeaux in 2017.

Jungle shacks set ablaze and torn down as camp razed
All photos: AFP

IN PICTURES: The razing of the Jungle has finally begun.

Frenchwoman finds WW1 grenade among her spuds
Photo: AFP

It could have been a very explosive family dinner.

Refugee crisis
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Photo: AFP

What does the future hold for the migrants of the Jungle? Can they work or claim social benefits or travel freely inside Europe?

Pampers nappies 'contain carcinogenics': French study
Photo: Robert Valencia/Flick

The substances in the nappies are meant to prevent skin irritation but are cancerous, the study concludes.

France to scrap special prison wings for dangerous jihadists
Photo: AFP

The experiment has been ditched.

Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
A model at the Pulp Fiction fashion show in Paris that represents society's diverse spectrum . Photo: AFP

Hold on, aren't the French all meant to be finely toned specimens with not an ounce of fat on them?

France poised to send bulldozers into Calais Jungle
Photo: AFP

As hundreds of migrants leave, the bulldozers are set to tear down the sprawling Calais shanty town on Tuesday.

UK to spend €40 million on securing Calais border
Photo: AFP

Britain spending big on security in Calais.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available