ALS interpreter sent home by Crown Court Judge for being incompetent
I have been asked by a solicitor to attend Leeds Crown Court today to assist them and their Hungarian-speaking client who was due to be sentenced today after a long trial in March.
There were four Hungarian defendants in this case. ALS managed to send two Hungarian interpreters for those four defendants. Hungarian linguist no. 1 (HL1) was wearing her NRPSI badge despite the fact that she is not on the National Register anymore. I guess wearing an expired NRPSI badge is still less embarrassing than wearing an ALS badge. When she swore in, she went into the dock and sat down in the back between two of the defendants.
And then came Hungarian Linguist no. 2. (HL2) She was asked to take the oath but first she did not understand what she was asked to do. Then she started reading out the oath in broken English and with a very strong accent. She could not pronounce some words and generally really struggled. So the judge asked her: “Madam Interpreter, how good is your English?” She was just staring blankly. So the judge asked again, slowly, loudly and clearly: “Madam Interpreter, do you understand me?” Obviously she still didn’t because then she was trying to hand over her ALS Claim Form to him. Then the usher went over and asked if she understood the judge. This time she said yes, she just could not hear him first. She said something like “I think my English is good.” The judge promised he would speak up. She went into the dock and sat in the first row between the other two defendants.
The hearing started, HL1 was simultaneously interpreting more or less everything for the two defendants in the back, but HL2 was just sitting in silence. After about five minutes the judge asked her why she had not been translating the proceedings. Again, it felt that she did not understand the judge because she did not say a word. The judge explained that she should have been translating everything because so far the two defendants next to her did not have a clue about what had been discussed in the court room. She was very nervous and then suddenly HL1 stood up and told the judge that it did not matter if HL2 was not translating because she was and the other two defendants could just listen to her! The two barristers of these defendants stood up immediately and demanded that their clients should have a competent interpreter, too. Then HL2 suddenly said (still sitting) “But I have understood everything that has been said so far”. The judge got really mad and asked HL2 to leave the court! He explained that her role is not to “understand” but to “translate” the proceedings.
Then the barrister who had booked me told the judge that there was another Hungarian Interpreter in the court room (me). He told him that I was a qualified and competent interpreter but do not work for the new agency (Applied Language Solutions). The barrister asked the judge if I could go in the dock and interpret for his client. I stood up and gave a little speech: I told the judge that I was a qualified interpreter who used to work in the “old system” but refuse to work for ALS. I explained the reasons briefly but he seemed to have heard all about it anyway. He was very understanding and sympathetic. He described the new system as a “disgrace”. I told him that I did not just boycott ALS but also all direct bookings and would normally refuse a request like this. However, I appreciate the seriousness of the situation and I am happy to help. In return I asked that he lodged a complaint about this incident. He assured me that he would have done that anyway and he was very grateful that I helped. So I stepped inside the dock and we carried on.
When we finished, the judge thanked me again and left the court room. After this all solicitors and barristers came up to me to “congratulate me on my speech”. They all had lots of stories to tell me about ALS, how bad they are, how many problems they are having every day with ALS interpreters, etc.
After the hearing even HL1 disappeared very quickly so it was me who stayed for another 1.5 hour to help all barristers one by one to consult with their clients who were now in custody.