Daily Mail: Trial stopped as murder case translator was only there because his wife - the real interpreter - was 'too busy to show up'
- Fake translator stopped half-an-hour into key evidence
- A second translator was also dismissed from the case
- A junior counsel who spoke Punjabi was forced to continue with translating
- Farce cost courts tens of thousands of pounds
A murder trial turned into a farce when an interpreter confessed half-an-hour into vital evidence that he was a fake, filling in for his busy wife.
The judge halted the trial of Rajvinder Kaur, who killed her mother-in-law with a rolling pin, when the court realised interpreter Mubarak Lone was leaving out key words and phrases in his translating.
Mr Lone was interpreting for Kaur’s husband, Iqbal Singh, who spoke Punjabi, but struggled to even get the oath right for the Sikh witness at Winchester Crown Court in Hampshire.
He was finally caught out by junior counsel Sukhdev Garcha, who also spoke the language, half-an-hour into the the faltering evidence.
In the absence of the jury, Mr Lone was forced to confess to Mr Justice Barnett that he was not a qualified translator and was awaiting the results of his interpreter test.
He later revealed that his wife - the booked interpreter - was busy and he had come to do her job instead.
It comes after a series of problems with translators supplied by Applied Language Solutions (ALS), who were recently given a Government contract to supply translators to courts.
Judges and court officials across the country have criticised the Ministry of Justice's deal with ALS after stories of translators failing to arrive for trials or unable to accurately interpret proceedings for defendants, witnesses and victims.
Kaur, 37, was yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment and told she would serve a minimum term of 11 years for battering her mother-in-law Baljit Kaur Buttar to death with a rolling pin at her home in Southampton last February.
Defence barrister Jonathan Fuller QC said Mr Lone wrongly translated words, such as saying 'bitter; instead of 'irritable' and 'Allah' instead of 'One God'.
But the farce continued.
A second translator drafted in to cover the case, was 'completely out of her depth' and in the end the case was only able to continue with the assistance of Mr Garcha.
In total it wasted a day of work at the court, at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds.
Mr Garcha said: 'I couldn’t believe the first interpreter was so woefully inadequate and then it happened again with the second who was completely out of her depth.
'She didn’t understand a lot of words and phrases and her vocabulary was completely lacking.
'If I hadn’t spoken up then people in the court would have thought everything was being interpreted correctly.
'It would have been to the detriment of our client - we could have had a miscarriage of justice.
'That’s the price you pay.
Defence barrister Jonathan Fuller QC added: 'It’s at the very heart of the justice system because the words are the evidence.
'If you find, as a defence counsel, that you are calling evidence on words that are unreliable then that is the start of a miscarriage of justice.'
Mr Justice Barnett told the court: ‘This is extremely unfortunate, to use a classic understatement.’
In a brief statement, ALS said it would not comment on individual cases.
‘Any complaints received about interpreters are investigated thoroughly and, where necessary, the interpreter is suspended from working with ALS until the investigation is complete.
'At that point ALS will either remove them from its register, reinstate them or provide further training, as appropriate,’ it said.
ALS has claimed its contract, which started formally on February 1, would save the Government £60 million over five years.
But many interpreters said they had boycotted the firm in reaction to low rates of pay, claiming that led to a struggle by ALS to recruit translators, and prompting the use of untrained people in courts.
The company is being monitored daily after failing to meet targets. It was eight per cent off target from January to April this year, prompting action from the Ministry of Justice.