Crown Court Trial in Bradford: Illiterate ALS linguist
Initially this case involved 6 defendants: three Hungarian-speaking defendants, one who speaks Hungarian as well as Slovak and he requested a Slovak interpreter, and also two Asian defendants who spoke the Urdu language. The trial was due to start on Monday, 5th March, and was proposed to run for three weeks. Just before 5 o’clock on Friday 2nd March the trial was rescheduled to start one day later on 6th March as ALS informed the court that they were unable to supply interpreters for Monday.
So on Day Two on Tuesday all defendants arrived at court but there were only two Hungarian interpreters - one of which has not got any interpreting qualification – and as ALS struggled to find a Slovak interpreter they sent a Czech interpreter instead! The Slovak-speaking defendant could not understand the Czech interpreter so by the end of the day his barrister made the decision to send the interpreter home and they requested that he too would get a Hungarian interpreter instead. This defendant complained that he did not understand anything from the proceedings on the first day because of the language problem.
For Day Three ALS managed to find one more Hungarian interpreter so there were three interpreters now for four defendants. Not ideal but the court agreed to proceed anyway as they could not delay the trial for any longer. This third interpreter was a young girl who did not seem to have any experience in court interpreting. The defendants complained that she just sat in silence and hardly translated anything whilst they were in the dock and when they asked her to translate she turned to her colleagues and asked them about what was going on because she said she could not understand what the barristers were saying. This was the first and last time this girl attended this trial. She did not come back the following day, I can only assume that she realised that she was unsuitable for the job.
On Day Four another Hungarian interpreter turned up and he carried on working on this case with the other two Hungarian interpreters till the end of the trial. He has no interpreting qualification and was travelling to Bradford from Corby every day (270 miles round trip). One of the other interpreters was from Reading and she stayed in a hotel for the duration of the trial (over three weeks) because it would have been too long for her to commute every day. I would like to add here that there are four qualified Hungarian interpreters on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters within one hour travel distance from Bradford.
On Day Four the Prosecution still could not proceed because they had a new witness who only spoke Urdu. They needed to take a written statement from him and it turns out his interpreter CAN NOT READ OR WRITE URDU!!!!! If nothing else, this is proof that this person has no relevant interpreting qualification because both DPSI and MET tests have a written part too. Even ALS assessments have a written test which means ALS supplied the court with an interpreter that they have never vetted. So the whole court had to stand by whilst they could find another Urdu interpreter who could actually read and write too. Again I would like to add that there are 18 qualified Urdu interpreters on the National Register who live within 4 miles of the court. Most of them most likely will not have registered with ALS.
Soon they dropped the charges against the two Asian defendants so there were only four Hungarian-speaking defendants remaining with three interpreters throughout the three weeks.
I cannot comment on the quality of interpreting whilst they were in the dock as I could not hear them, however, I did listen to one of these interpreters interpret for a defendant in the witness box. His interpretation was very vague, to say the least. He was inaccurate. He did not translate everything word by word but instead he summarised the sentences and sometimes he also added some extra explanation to the questions. Sometimes he translated a question in three different ways. His English grammar was very poor. When he really struggled he also added words like “basically”, “actually”, “accordingly” to make it sound more professional. To give you some examples of all of the above:
Exact translation of words said by the Hungarian defendant
Translation of ALS interpreter
“I get hot flashes” - “I have a problem…I have a warm feeling”
“I convince myself that I am ill” - “I imagine those kind of things…I have this problem inside my head”
“I said all sorts of lies” - “I was lie.”
“paramedic” - “ambulance people”
“they were holding hands like people in love” - “they grabbed each other like a love couple”
“I do not speak English” - “I do not understand anything”
“I have never been in a situation like this before” - “I never had problem before”
“Do you take any medication for depression?” - “Did you take any medication because of depression?”
“Sibling” - “Brother”
“I do not want the wedding to happen” - “I do not want to take part in this”
He may not have changed the meaning of a sentence completely but as an interpreter it is not our job to explain a question or summarise an answer or to judge what was important and what was not. We are just there to translate everything word by word as accurately as possible.
I brought these issues to the attention of the barristers but by this time the trial was so behind schedule they did not really want to delay it any further so they decided not to take any actions.
Regrettably, this interpreter is still actively working. Last night he was called to Bradford from Corby to take a short statement about a missing person.
Just another example that the services provided by the new FWA are inefficient, expensive and below standard.