Crown Court: defendant doesn't understand anything
Last week I went to observe a case in a Crown Court in Kent. I have to say the ALS interpreter in the dock was talking so loudly that the barristers had to pause in order not to get overtalked. He kept interpreting only a few words out of five sentences and was mixing up the dates. By skipping important bits, he managed to survive up to the review of previous convictions.
And then I could not believe my ears. Instead of interpreting what was said, he told the poor chap that he probably knew what they were talking about. How ridiculous is that? He then tried to catch up, mixing up robbery with burglary, accused the defendant of robbing the shop instead of stealing from it. A dishonesty offence was interpreted as “dirty business” and then it got worse. Because of the guilty plea the defendant was sentenced that day and when the judge was explaining aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the “nonterpreter” simply stood there in silence. No one cared. And then at the end, while leaving the docks, the defendant, who I happen to know, asked me: “Are you going to interpret everything to me, because I did not understand a thing”. I told this to court clerk and she managed to explain to the judge what had actually happened.
Do courts book interpreters for the benefit of defendants so that they could fully understand the proceedings? In this case the defendant didn’t have a chance to follow.