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DVS urged to provide driving theory test in Portuguese

DVS urged to provide driving theory test in Portuguese

Monday 22 February 2021

DVS urged to provide driving theory test in Portuguese

A judge has urged Driver and Vehicle Standards to provide a theory test in Portuguese to a driver with limited English, arguing that he should be tested on his driving knowledge rather than “his facility with the English language."

The comments from Royal Court Commissioner Sir Michael Birt came in a judgment following an appeal by Antonio Jorge Perneta da Silva.

Mr Da Silva was fined £2,000 and disqualified from driving for 16 months in June 2019 after he admitted driving while the level of alcohol in his breath, 53 micrograms in 100ml, exceeded the legal limit.

At the time, Magistrate Bridget Shaw also ordered that he retake his driving test at the end of the disqualification period.

Magistrates Court Blue

Pictured: Mr Da Silva was disqualified from driving in June 2019 by the Magistrate.

Mr Da Silva, a Portuguese national, was said to have only a limited command of English. While an interpreter and duty advocate were with him on the day of the sentencing, he said he was not aware that he would have to take the driving test after 16 months of the disqualification period, and that he would remain disqualified until he had passed the test.

Mr Da Silva said it had come as “a complete surprise” to him when he went to the Driver and Vehicles Standards Office at the end of his 16-month disqualification and was told that he would have to pass the driving test again, before he could have his licence back. 

Due to his “extremely limited” comprehension of English, Mr Da Silva said he wouldn’t be able to pass the theory test. He therefore attempted to appeal to Royal Court to have the condition removed, even though he had passed the deadline for such an appeal. 

The case was heard by Commissioner Birt, who stated in his judgment that neither the Magistrate’s Court nor the Royal Court can allow a driver to resume holding a licence after the end of the disqualification period without passing the driving test.

He also said the Royal Court would not be able to appeal the disqualification order either, because there was nothing to suggest “the possibility of arguing for the existence of ‘special reasons’ in the case."

“The only matter relied upon is the hardship to the Applicant caused by reason of the fact that it will be particularly difficult – and he would say, impossible – for him to pass the theory examination because of his limited English,” the Commissioner wrote.

“If he cannot pass the test, he will not be able to re-acquire his driving licence and will therefore suffer prolonged and indefinite hardship. However, this is something personal to the Applicant as the offender, not something related to the offence itself. It cannot therefore in law constitute a ‘special reason’.”


Pictured: Sir Michael Birt said neither the Magistrate’s Court nor the Royal Court can allow a driver to resume holding a licence after the end of the disqualification period without passing the driving test.

The Commissioner said he couldn’t allow Mr Da Silva’s request for an extension of time to make his appeal as the appeal itself was “doomed to failure."

He however noted that, after reading Mr Da Silva’s submission, he had asked the Greffier to contact DVS to see if there was any possibility of taking the theory test in Portuguese, but was informed there was none. 

He therefore suggested that DVS consider allowing Mr Da Silva to take the test in Portuguese.   

“It is of course a matter for the DVS but, on the face of it, if [Mr Da Silva] were able to satisfy DVS that his knowledge was sufficient to pass the theory paper (even if questions were asked and answered in Portuguese) and that he was familiar with and understood all the signs that he would come across on the road etc, there would not appear to be any good reason to deny him a licence,” he wrote.

“I would therefore invite DVS to see if some mechanism can be established whereby he can be adequately tested on his knowledge and safety to drive in Jersey rather than on his facility with the English language.”

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Posted by Anthony Renouf on
Why do we have to continually make allowances for foreign nationals who opt to live permanently on the island but don't, or won't learn the language. When I moved to the French speaking region of Switzerland some years back for work, all documentation was in French and we were expected to manage that, not look for "English translations". The same happened when we moved up to the German speaking part of the country. People who come here for work should be required to learn English as part of their integration into our society, not be pampered to and certainly not if they have been convicted for an offence like drink driving.
Posted by IanSmith97 on
Most traffic (triangle warning ones and circular command ones) signs are universal and are the same as they are in Portugal or any European country. Hardly any road signs have text on them in any country. They are designed specifically to avoid text so as to be universally understood. I suggest the judge looks at road signs next time he is out and about. The judge should stick to judging. We here and the U.K. are obsessed with bending over backwards to accommodate incomers who will not assimilate. When in Rome and all that.
Posted by Martyn Anderson on
The Judge seems to have missed that drivers have to read Safety Signs and Directions on road works and other road connected activities that are all in English, so driving in Jersey with very limited knowledge or no knowledge of English is a safety issue in itself. The Test should be in English only, and it is up to the applicant to get their english knowledge up to the standard needed.
Posted by Steve Liron on
I’m with you Anthony. I also spent some time working in the Swiss Romand with a wonderful boss who “insisted” that all my Swiss colleagues speak to me in French, notwithstanding their quite understandable preference to brush up on their own broken English. Yes, it was difficult at times, I was often lost when chatting over drinks, or the butt of the jokes and I remember one very amusing occasion when my female co-workers doubled up after my returning to work one warm lunchtime to announce “je suis chaud” instead of “j’ai chaud”. Imagine that today – laughing at the minority foreigner!!

Anyway, I soon learnt the lingo and have profited ever since on my travels to France by being able to converse with the locals. It really does make a difference, principally to oneself.

Nothing worthwhile comes easy as they say but with woke pc decision making on the part of our popularity seeking judiciary, instead of “encouraging” the likes of senhor da Silva of the merits of learning the language of the country in which he lives, of particular benefit when considering how widely the English language is used throughout much of the world, we will get to read more bleeding heart stories of woe…
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