February 27, 2010
Doubts over courtroom interpreters
Two question marks were raised over the quality of foreign language interpreting at Dundee Sheriff Court yesterday.
First a Polish interpreter had to be replaced during a trial, then, after a Polish national—the accused in the long-running case—claimed he had not understood the evidence on a previous day.
The trial came to an abrupt halt yesterday, but will begin again and be heard by a different sheriff in May.
Daniel Serafin (33), of Strathmartine Road, denies two charges alleging that having been in charge of a car, he failed to provide a roadside breath test and two breath specimens.
The trial began in November and has taken place over four separate days, with different Polish interpreters sitting in the dock beside Serafin.
The Crown had finished its case and yesterday there was legal debate during which depute fiscal Douglas Wiseman told Sheriff Peter Grant-Hutchison that the interpreter did not appear to be translating.
The sheriff asked her about this and she said she had not been trained and did not have knowledge of the language used in court.
She was replaced by a male interpreter and matters continued with defence solicitor Kris Gilmartin saying his client claimed the interpreter, on the last occasion in December, had not been interpreting properly.
Serafin said she had not translated properly, but would say “to sum up” after a lengthy passage of evidence, and there were things he had not been told.
Depute fiscal Douglas Wiseman said the interpreter had the right to be heard in court on the matter, adding that the Crown position was that the accused did understand English and “is playing a game.”
After lengthy discussion with the parties, the sheriff said he was naturally reluctant to call a halt to the trial at this stage—however, in the highly unusual circumstances of the case, he saw no alternative but to stop the trial and said there should be a trial as of new.
The interpreters were provided by Global Language Services Ltd, and manager of the Edinburgh office, Darius Garab, was asked by The Courier to respond to the allegations some of their interpreters did not fully carry out their duties.
Mr Garab said, “We train our interpreters before they go to court and make sure they are familiar with the courts. I am surprised that one of our interpreters said she has not been trained - sometimes they do get nervous. We train them three times a year in court matters and show them a video. There is proper training going on, but sometimes interpreters get stuck.”
While he claimed his court interpreters all had degrees in translation or interpreting, or the diploma in public service interpreting, he undertook to investigate the particular issues raised yesterday.