ALS linguist fails to interpret a 15-year prison sentence
Today we had a chance to read a news story about this Bradford man who was jailed for a "nasty" gang attack, as the BBC put it on their website. Just read the article to find out what happened during the hearing. The question is though - did the defendant himself understand what happened in court? Today I popped in to Bradford Crown Court to view the case, and I was not disappointed.
So, it was the sentencing case of Bartolomej Makula who was charged with GBH. Bartolomej Makula does not speak English and an ALS interpreter was booked for him. Upon the Judges remark "you should have been here 20 min ago" the interpreter replied "I was standing outside for 15 min". He then swore on the Bible with terrible English and went to the dock to join the defendant. The prosecutor gave a 20 minute summary of the facts, while the interpreter only interpreted approximately 5 sentences, and nothing about the complex injuries the victim had sustained. Nothing whatsoever of the defence’s speech was interpreted, and only every 10th sentence of the Judge’s speech.
What really got me was that the Judge never enquired as to why the interpreter’s lips were not even moving. The clerk did look at the interpreter a lot, but didn't say anything either. The interpreter wasn't asked his name or the language. The sentence of 15 years in prison was not interpreted, and the interpreter himself looked puzzled most of the time. Nobody seemed to care if the interpreter was actually doing their job.
I later waited for this interpreter outside the court room; I introduced myself and asked him how long he had been interpreting for. Apparently, only two months and he already worked on four court cases. I was very polite and tried to get his name but was unsuccessful. The only thing I do know is that he is a Slovakian Roma.
Yes, what the defendant did was, of course, terrible, and certainly, the man deserves his sentence. But does he not deserve a fair trial, where he is actually able to understand what is being said about him and in his defence? What has happened to Justice in this country?