Evidence in court torn into pieces with a witness statement made without an interpreter
I interpreted recently for a CPS witness at Leeds Crown Court whose evidence was torn into pieces by the defence barrister because he had given his original statement to the police in English without an interpreter. The statement was taken by the police in West Yorkshire. West Yorkshire Police have been using ALS/Capita for interpreting and translation services for almost two years now.
The defence barrister said he would refuse to accept the witness’s account unless he gave it in English. So I was asked to step down and let the witness talk to him and the jury in English which did not work for a second. His English was so basic; he could understand some of the questions but was unable to say a word in English. Still the police thought his English was good enough to give a statement without an interpreter. It also became clear that although he spoke some basic English, he could not read or write English at all.
It turned out the police literally wrote up a statement for him and asked him to sign it. He admitted he could not read what he had signed and he also said he had asked for an interpreter but they had to rearrange the appointment 3 times because of lack of an interpreter so in the end he agreed to do it without one.
Police need to realise the importance of having an interpreter present and also learn the difference between understanding some basic English and being able to speak, read and write it fluently!