Trial Halted at Leeds Crown Court as No Interpreter Present
I was at the Leeds Crown Court on Tuesday and Wednesday this week (21st and 22nd February 2012). I was booked by a solicitor - for witnesses, not by the court. An ALS non-RPSI interpreter from Manchester attended in casual clothes and was booked for this trial only the night before. He was told, it’d last only half an hour so accepted a booking from ALS at Birmingham police station to take a statement at 4.30pm. He postponed it till 6pm. Needless to say, he was still in court at 5pm and Birmingham custody clock was to run out at 8pm, which he was fully aware of.
Now back to the trial. It was a floating trial so we waited the whole day on Tuesday for our turn to come. Due to the time, the jury was just introduced and an opening speech made and the case was due to commence properly on Wednesday.
The ALS interpreter was not available to continue so the court was trying to arrange another one through ALS, but they did not come back to court, hence there was no interpreter on Wednesday for the defendant – only me for the witnesses. The judge was trying to see if I could interpret for the defendant as well, that’s if the prosecution and defence sides would agree. The defence solicitor explained that it is not possible and I also said that even if it was possible and as much as I would like to help, I cannot and I explained my reasons why. I felt quite bad as the defendant was sitting in the dock not knowing what was going on. Then there was a conversation as to why 2 interpreters are needed and so on. The judge was very fair, but got upset, as there was no interpreter present even though there was an ample opportunity to arrange one and wanted the press to be present to record this. I was thinking to myself ‘Oh, yes, please do!’. The press was not in the courtroom just when you need them, but the court staff managed to call them in. I was so excited, you can imagine!
The judge asked for the jury to be called in and explained to them that there is no interpreter for the defendant. He explained that he called the press in as this is inexcusable and pathetic and that he heard about the new agency and the economic saving or something down the line, but the wide public needs to know that is not working and it costs thousands of pounds to the solicitors, courts, taxpayers …… when the trial is set and cannot go ahead so he can’t see how this can save any money. He might have mentioned that he cannot do anything himself and often things do only change when they get into headlines and that is why he called the journalists in.
He said lots of things and made very good observations. When the defence barrister was talking about me not being able to interpret for the defendant, by mistake she said that I was not accredited and that I do not work for the agency. I then stood up and addressed the court in that respect saying that I am more accredited than the ALS interpreter yesterday as I have interpreting qualifications, which he did not have as he only passed a meaningless assessment. I also mentioned that the interpreter was Slovak and not Czech and that the defendant complained to me that the interpreter could not keep up with what was being said and was only interpreting every other word. Both, the defence barrister and the judge agreed that the ALS interpreter struggled with his English.
This has since been published in the following sources: