ALS court misinterpretations: funny or sad?
The Internet is full of photo snaps of funny mistranslations people often find on foreign signs, labels and instructions abroad. People who find themselves in court these days, be it defendants, witnesses, court employees or members of public observing procedures to make sure justice is done, and who can speak and understand some foreign languages, have had the pleasure or misfortune to hear things which would make them laugh or cry. I have learnt that laughter was hard to resist sometimes.
The new ALS linguists sent to our courts these days are barely expected to be able to interpret ambiguity or intricacies. How can they, when magistrates have recently been given an instruction to “ensure that court officers speak slowly enough and give due consideration to there being an interpreter translating proceedings?”
The “bitten” and “beaten” mistake has been widely publicised, with a trial collapsing as a result.
A suspect charged with perverting the course of justice was told they are accused of being a pervert.
Another suspect, when charged at a police station which has an interpreting contract with ALS, was told they had to give the police money.
More examples uttered in the courtroom by contractors sent to interpret by ALS/Capita:
- £15 victim surcharge was interpreted as £15 payable to the victim.
- A supervision order mysteriously turned to unpaid work.
- A conditional discharge changed to a suspended sentence.
- A judge was addressed as Your Majesty instead of Your Honour.
- A dishonesty offence was vaguely generalised as dirty business.
When magistrates in one court said measures would be put in place to recover the fine, an ALS linguist eloquently put it as “they would send the boys round”.
When a legal adviser asked a defendant if he was willing to indicate a plea, an ALS interpreter added her own message by saying: Are you guilty?
Another interpreter was overheard explaining in a Magistrates’ court waiting room to his client that he hadn't been charged yet and that the jury would read out the charge to him.
Please feel free to share more examples by adding them as a comment below. The show still goes on.