Court Interpreting: good interpreters are vital to justice

Last week in Ireland an interpreter with suspect language skills caused a case to be thrown out of court, despite protests from police who argued that the interpreter had no previous court experience.  The case involved an interpreter working in English and Latvian.

A Latvian native was charged with theft and appeared before Castlebar District Court, where an interpreter was to translate his words into English and translate the court proceedings into Latvian on his behalf. But the judge, Mary Devins, was so appalled at the interpreter’s poor English that she threw out the case.

The defendant was charged with the theft of €18.20 worth of goods from Dunnes Stores, a department store in Castlebar.

However, the interpreter’s deficiencies were revealed as soon as she had to take the interpreter’s oath to translate fully and accurately. As the court clerk read out the oath in English the interpreter, who was supplied by an agency, struggled to repeat the words. The judge said “it was obvious to me she did not speak good English”. The police asked for the interpreter to be given a second chance on the grounds that it was her first time in court, but the judge denied this.

The judge then criticised the expense of the case, said Irish fees for translation services were among the highest in the European Union and described the situation as “completely unsatisfactory”.  She argued the case “must have cost the State thousands” compared to the €18.20 theft involved. The judge then struck out the case “in the interests of fairness and natural justice”.

There are few cases where skilled interpreting is more important than in court cases – otherwise the interests of justice cannot be served. In the UK the Chartered Institute of Linguists offers a qualification called DPSI – Diploma of Public Service Interpreting. This has 3 options:

  • Law – courts, solicitors, immigration
  • Healthcare – hospitals, clinics, GP practices
  • Local Government – housing, social work, education

Courts in the UK try to employ good interpreters and us the DPSI qualification as an indicator of skills level. With rarer languages such as Latvian this is not always possible.

Don’t take risks with your interpreter – if you need a reliable, good interpreters in any language Accutranslate can help! 0800 466 1335 and info@accutranslate.co.uk

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