Holidaymakers protest at French ski resort after British instructor is arrested on the slopes for 'giving lessons without the right qualifications'Alex Casey, 40, from Kent, arrested at alpine resort for filming British skiersAround 100 protesters demonstrate against arrest at Megve police stationLatest chapter of ongoing 'piste war' with French authorities
13:13 GMT, 3 April 2013
18:23 GMT, 3 April 2013
Arrested: Ski instructor Alex Casey is accused of working without the correct qualifications
Holidaymakers today staged a demonstration outside a French police station to protest against the arrest of a British ski instructor.
Alex Casey was accused of providing lessons without a licence in the alpine resort of Megve, where he spent last night in custody.
It is all part of an escalating ‘piste war’ which last month saw a British teenager claim she was assaulted by police clamping down on foreign instructors.
Ski professionals from the UK believe the French are trying to drive them off the slopes – ruining peoples’ holidays in the process.
Mr Casey, 40, who is originally from Folkestone in Kent, has worked as an instructor in Megve for more than a decade, but is now officially banned from doing so because he lacks a French qualification.
He claims he was filming a group of British skiers on Tuesday when he was arrested by four gendarmes accompanied by government officials. Now he faces up to three months in prison for the offence of instructing without qualifications.
‘The police surrounded Alex and then escorted him away,’ said Pauline Foster, from Hull, one of around 100 protesters including parents with children massing at the Gendarmerie in Megve.
‘We were all deeply shocked to see Alex arrested, and decided to join the demonstration outside the police station. They should not be allowed to get away with this.’
Ms Foster, who is in Megve with a party of six family and friends, is staying in the Chalet d’Antoine, which is run by Englishman Simon Butler.
Mr Butler, himself a highly experienced instructor, was arrested last year for illegal instructing and is currently appealing a three-month suspended sentence.
Protest: Around 100 holidaymakers gathered today to demonstrate against the Briton's arrest
‘I was led off the slopes in handcuffs – it’s pure persecution,’ said Mr Butler, 50. ‘If this kind of thing happened to French workers in Britain there would be an absolute outcry. It’s scandalous.
‘Alex is a hugely popular instructor, and that’s why so many people decided to protest about his arrest. Our initial aim is to get him freed.’
Lianne Purvis, an 18-year-old student at Chichester University in Sussex, lodged a criminal complaint in Megve after allegedly being assaulted by a gendarme on February 27.
Mark Gibbs, her instructor, said he was ‘astonished’ when Ms Purvis was pushed over violently because she was taking photographs of him being questioned for illegal teaching.
‘The gendarme leapt on her, twisting her arm back,’ said Mr Gibbs. ‘She was screaming and crying with pain.’
France’s employment market is a notoriously protectionist one, with everything from hard-to-get training qualifications to strict social security rules used to keep foreign workers out.
This has made it hugely difficult for UK instructors to get jobs in France, the second biggest ski holiday market in the world.
The country expects instructors to have passed the ‘Eurotest’ – a qualification which requires completing a tough downhill slalom at racing speed.
In January a decision by a court in Albertville to ban British ski hosts – those who simply accompany holidaymakers on the slopes – outraged the UK alpine sports industry.
A spokesman for Megve police confirmed that Mr Casey had been arrested on suspicion of illegal instructing, and was being questioned while in custody.