Foreign Language Interpreting in Courts

I am sure that we are all familiar with the current debacle occurring in court rooms every day across the UK. Since the implementation of the Capita/ALS/MoJ interpreting contract the spotlight has been on interpreting in court. There are there issues elsewhere globally with providing a fair and balanced trial when dealing with non-native speakers.

A recent article in The Economist highlighted problems experienced in courts in the US. When it comes to accommodating non-native English speakers in court with a reliable and efficient language service. It pointed out that even the quality of Spanish interpreting was unreliable! With the author witnessing one particular court case where the exchanges between the interpreter and lawyer were particularly stilted and awkward. This led to an amount of confusion that seriously hindered the progression of the case.

The article suggests that, further to relying on the presence of an interpreter, a second stenographer should also be provided. This stenographer is to accompany the standard one provided in court to transcribe what is said in the language not native to the court. This would lead to two records of the proceedings. The first in English, the record of the court stenographer. The second of the other stenographer who would take a record of all that was said between the interpreter and defendant/witness.

At the moment, as only the English is being recorded, if the interpreter makes an error, then the English record is incorrect. If there is a foreign language record to refer to, then this should take precedence in the event of a serious discrepancy between the two.

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I think that this is an excellent idea and provides an extra ‘safety net’ to ensure that everyone who passes through a court is given equal representation and fair access to justice.

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