The way we were… Judicial interpreters & “acceptable MINIMUM standards” before ALS
Dear colleagues, I would be very grateful to you if you allowed me to insert here a few details about the qualifications a court/police interpreter was required to have, before the ALS system. You already know what the requirements used to be, because you had to comply with them. But many of our friends, who belong to other professions, ask me about the difference in terms of qualifications required, between an ‘ALS interpreter’, and a pre-ALS interpreter.
I tell them that as far as I heard, ALL that an ‘ALS interpreter’ is required to do is to sit some flimsy test, so flimsy that it is not even mentioned on the UK’s National Qualifications Framework (not even at Level 1). But I hear even that requirement was ignored lately.
In contrast, under the ‘old system’ we were required to obtain a Diploma in Public Service Interpreting, the Legal option (a Level 6 examination on the National Qualifications Framework) to be allowed to interpret for police and courts. And this examination was required to ensure that we met the minimum acceptable standards in terms of qualifications, and to ensure that we were competent enough for the UK to meet the ECHR obligations (Art.5 and Art.6).
To exemplify the previous norm (for the benefit of those from other professions) and the type of interpreting guidance which were used across the entire Criminal Justice System in UK before the ‘ALS system’, I will simply insert here a few quotations from a manual** used by one police force, but I repeat, the same or very similar stringent rules were applied nationally:
Manual of guidance for interpreters and police officers working with interpreters
“3.2.1. It is essential that interpreters used in criminal proceedings should be competent to meet the ECHR obligations.”
3.4.1. […] successful completion of either the Diploma in Public Service
Interpreting (DPSI* - Legal option) or the Metropolitan Police Language Test would provide acceptable minimum standards of academic achievement.
1.3.1. Interpreters must be able to understand, speak, read and write legibly in English and the language of the person with whom the police wish to converse. This should be to a level of competence that will include specialised terms and procedures (…) it is important that the interpreter fully comprehends the meaning of different offences and concepts such as ‘caution' and ‘bail'.”
“3.1.3. The competent authorities’ obligations are not limited to the appointment of an interpreter, but may extend to a degree of subsequent control over the adequacy of the interpretation provided (Kamasinski v Austria, No. 9783/82, 1989 & Mutatis Mutandis Artico v Italy, No. 6694/74, 1980). The Judge (or Magistrate) in particular is required to treat the defendant’s interests with “scrupulous care” (Cuscani v UK, No.32771/96).”
“3.1 Obtaining suitably qualified interpreters: ECHR requirements
3.1.1 The rights to liberty and security, and to a fair trial, are fundamental human rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).”
(my emphases throughout the quoted text)
*DPSI (…) represents professional level skills in public service interpreting. It is a first-degree level qualification (NQF Level 6) in terms of language skills required for those interpreting in the UK in a Public Service context. (according to i.e. the Chartered Institute of linguists ,n.b. NQF-National Qualifications Framework)
** Manual of guidance for interpreters and police officers working with interpreters, produced by Stuart Knipe (http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/pdf/help-advice/Interpreter_Manual.pdf): “This manual brings together the revised 2007 ‘National agreement on arrangements for the use of interpreters(…). The ‘National agreement’ has been produced in consultation with the Interpreters Working Group, which includes representatives from the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Bar Council and the Law Society, as well as representatives from interpreter bodies. (…)The ‘National agreement’ provides guidance on arranging suitably qualified interpreters (…) when the requirements of Articles 5 and 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights apply). "