Crown Court trial: Tier 2 linguist, wrong language, no experience
This Crown Court trial was listed a for three days' hearing starting at 10am on Monday 19th of March 2012. The defendant (a taxi driver) was facing charges of indecent assault on a female passenger. I was assigned by the defence counsel, a court interpreter should have been assigned through the new FWA with ALS but there was no-one. The Court Clerk started ringing around; finally at 3pm a linguist, Mr XYZ appeared and said that he was from Bradford (over 30 miles away from Burnley Crown Court). He stated in the courtroom, “This is my first ever court job, I am an Urdu, Panjabi, Mirpuri and Pahari interpreter.” Upon agreement from the defendant a decision was made to proceed with Panjabi interpretation.
Then Mr XYZ told me in the waiting area that he had recently paid £100 and taken ALS assessment in the Urdu language, passed it and was given a Tier 2 status. He also told me that he had no formal qualifications or experience in the interpreting field. I mentioned to him that according to the MOJ & ALS FWA, crown court work falls under Tier 1. He had no idea of ins and outs of it, he said that he simply accepted the job over the phone by ALS. I also expressed my opinion to Mr XYZ that he should only work in the language that he had actually taken and passed the assessment in, otherwise he could be in a difficulty at some stages but this concept was far-above his understanding of the law and guidelines for the interpreters. The trial went into the fourth day as well due the first day’s delay and finally the jury found the defendant not guilty. (Mentioning the outcome or verdict may be irrelevant here, I would have lodged here the same concerns even if the verdict was the other way round.)
During the trial, when the defendant was giving his evidence, on at least 4 occasions I had to show my concern where there were additions by Mr XYZ to what the defendant actually said and on other occasions where mistranslation occurred as Mr XYZ could not find the appropriate words in English, i.e. for stutter or stumble, he said shivering. I can’t comment on how his simultaneous interpreting was because that was done whilst the defendant and Mr XYZ were in the dock and I was in the main courtroom.
In short, this ALS interpreter has no formal training, qualifications or experience; he took a 45 minutes controversial ‘assessment’ in the Urdu language, was given a Tier 2 status and assigned for Crown Court work, claiming to be an interpreter in 3 other languages as well.
How pathetic and short-sighted is the MOJ and ALS FWA and how badly will it affect justice if it continues?
ALS Linguists don't have the concept of proper qualifications and guidelines etc, they are the people who are exploited, misguided and induced by ALS in the times of austerity and unemployment.
P.S. Interestingly, before allowing me to speak on the very first occasion on the 3rd day when the defendant came to the witness box and started his evidence, when I stood up to show my concerns about the interpreter, at first the Judge who clearly knew my role, kindly introduced me to the jury and explained about my role as an interpreter (with defence counsel). Up to that point the members of jury probably thought I was a newspapers rep or some other staff or whatever who is wearing a badge, but certainly they were impressed that after 3 days they found out that there is "real" interpreter all the time observing most of the proceedings and sprung out suddenly when he felt necessary.