Barrister: interpreter no-shows are now the norm
I would like to share with you my notes from monitoring at Blackfriars CC on Wednesday, the 30th of May.
I stayed for two hours in court 7 where two trials took place.
1st trial: Iranian defendant who required a Farsi interpreter. It was 2.30pm and no interpreter was present. The Usher said that there was an ALS interpreter around in the morning but he had to rush off after lunch. Any chance of calling an interpreter now? The Judge said “no, no interpreters available”. And then I overheard something which I never thought I would hear in a court in the UK. The Judge asks the defendant's council: "How long has your client been in this country?” The council replies “10 years”. “Well”, the judge said, “there is no need for an interpreter then, it is expensive! I personally have quite few Iranian friends. They are very intelligent people. I am sure he will understand." The case was very complicated with fraud and immigration issues intertwined. The defendant looked utterly confused throughout the hearing.
2nd trial: a Romanian guy and his Chinese girlfriend in the dock. No interpreter present. The Romanian defendant's defence barrister explained that his client spoke enough English to be able to understand. All I can say was that it was painful to watch! The case was complex (they've each got an 18 month prison sentence)! The Romanian defendant was continuously asking his girlfriend what was going on. It lasted like this for a whole hour. When the words “custodial sentence” were pronounced, they both looked at each other not knowing if to laugh or cry. Only when they were not allowed to leave the dock did they understand what was going on. The screaming was unbearable!
I was fuming! Outside the court I launched a tirade at the barrister who replied coldly: "I know there is a problem but this is the situation now!"