Tuesday, June 9, 2009
NEWS FROM ENGLAND
A judge has been accused of using a 'racial slur' against gypsies while sentencing a conman, who he said had 'gypped' a student out of money.
Published: 8:12AM BST 09 Jun 2009
The slang verb 'to gyp' means to defraud or steal, and may be derived from the word gypsy.
Romany gypsies, long recognised as an ethnic group under the Race Relations Act, also say the word began life as 'gypsied' and is an insult.
The row began after Judge Christopher Elwen, who pronounced last year that Britain had 'lost its borders for the first time since 1066', used the word to describe an online con.
Sentencing Lee Scott-Major, a bogus EBay electrical goods trader, to three years, he said: "Whether the sum was £100,000 or £200,000 does not reflect the harm done to your victims, whether that be Mr and Mrs Andrewartha, Mr Kingshott, or the young student who was gypped out of £169."
Jake Bowers, editor of Travellers Times, said: "Gypped is an offensive word, it's derived from Gypsy and it's being used in the same context as a person might once have said they "jewed" somebody if they did an underhand business transaction.
"Basically what Judge Elwen has done is ascribed thievery to an entire ethnic group - of course there are criminals in the gypsy community - but there's no evidence there is a higher level of criminality than in any other community.
"I'd say his comment reflects the amount of ignorance that there is from the bottom of society, to its top, in the judiciary, about gypsies, and the idea that it's okay to have a go at the gypsy or traveller community without thinking about it.
"I suppose Judge Elwen might not have realised what he was saying and where the word was derived from, but on the other hand I doubt he thought he was talking about gyprock."
Romany activist Maggie Bendell-Smith added: "I would have been right up on my feet if I'd heard that in court and asking the judge to justify his choice of words. It's derogatory and I think an apology is called for."
Romany Community Relations Officer Hilda Brazil said: "If a similar thing had been said about a different race, the judge's colleagues would have been disgusted I'm sure and raised it with him. This is no different."
A spokesman for the Judicial Communications Office defended the judge's choice of words saying: "Gyp is defined in The Oxford English Dictionary as an act of cheating, nothing more.
"There is no evidence to connect this term to any ethnic group and this is certainly not how it was used in court."
The Oxford English Dictionary say they may resolve the issue in 2010.
Dr Philip Durkin, Principal Etymologist at the dictionary, said there was a "scholarly consensus" that the word probably was a "racial slur".
Posted by Morgan at 2:42 PM