Lawyers speak out for professional interpreters
Legal professionals dealing with foreign clients on a day-to-day basis have by now got a pretty good idea of how badly this infamous court interpreting fiasco has affected them and their clients. ALS linguists giving legal advice to defendants, telling defendants not to say anything in court in case they can’t cope with interpreting, standing in the dock mute – these shocking incidents do sadly take place.
The situation has become so grave that in its newsletter the Law Society for Suffolk & North Essex encourages its members to contact them with examples and concerns: “There is much coverage in the media of delays and/or postponements caused by failures by translation contractor Applied Language Solutions. There is talk of up to fifty cases a day being aborted. What is our local experience? Please could SNELS criminal practitioners advise your PRO/PLO of any recent examples.”
Speaking to the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association, Bruce Reid, a legal consultant, said the following to describe the effect of the reorganisation of interpreter services: “If they turn up at all, they’re often not particularly good. Again, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. We had a whole bank of interpreters who used to be clued up, not only with languages, but also as to cultural issues. A good court interpreter is an automaton: they will interpret every phrase. I’ve got very rusty Spanish and even worse French and I am beginning to understand Polish and Romanian phrases in a courtroom context. I’ve been able to hear things that are not being accurately translated. Under the old system, that didn’t happen.”
The longer the court interpreting chaos continues, the more difficult it will be to sort it out, the more expensive it will get. Reforms are supposed to improve standards and quality, not to diminish them, and if there is any common sense left within the current government and civil service, it’d better prevail and soon.