20 Jul 2012
Trial suspended as bogus interpreter stands in for wife
A trial was suspended after a bogus interpreter stood in for his wife because she was too busy.
A court descended into farce when a man translating vital evidence revealed he was only there because his wife - the real interpreter - was too busy.
The judge suspended the murder trial when it became clear Mubarak Lone was failing to translate key phrases fully.
He even got the oath wrong for a Sikh witness who was giving evidence at Winchester Crown Court, Hants.
It was only because a junior defence barrister happened to speak Punjabi that the problem was identified.
An investigation revealed Mr Lone was not qualified or registered as a court translator, risking a potential miscarriage of justice.
The fiasco, which happened on Friday, can only be reported today following the conclusion of the trial of mother-of-two Rajvinder Kaur, 37.
She was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 11 years in prison, for battering her mother-in-law to death with a rolling pin.
Kaur "exploded with rage" and hit Baljit Buttar, 56, around the head at least 20 times - leaving her dead on the bathroom floor of their home in Southampton, Hants.
The problem became evident shortly after Mr Lone was sworn in, having already delayed the trial by arriving 45 minutes late.
When he attempted to translate the oath to a Sikh witness he got it wrong.
And while translating for Kaur's husband Iqbal Singh as he took the stand to give evidence, Mr Lone went on to omit key words and phrases.
After repeated failed attempts by defence barrister Jonathan Fuller QC to have his questions asked correctly, the judge stopped the trial.
In the absence of the jury, Mr Lone admitted it was his wife who had been contracted by Allied Language Solutions to act as a translator.
But she already had work commitments that day so he went in her place.
Mr Lone confessed he had taken the interpreter test set by ALS but had not received his results and was not accredited.
Describing the situation, judge Mr Justice Barnett told the court: "This is extremely unfortunate, to use a classic understatement."
Mr Fuller said he had seven separate concerns about Mr Lone's translation errors.
This included wrongly translating words such as saying "bitter" instead of "irritable" and "Allah" instead of "One God".
Mr Lone also left out key words in evidence from the defendant's husband.
Mr Singh had said his mother called her two daughters-in-law "bitches from dirty parents" but Mr Lone omitted the "dirty".
When the jury were asked to withdraw Mr Lone claimed he had not heard "dirty" given in evidence.
However that was not the end of the matter.
When the trial recommenced on Monday morning a similar situation unfolded when a new female interpreter from ALS arrived.
But once again she was not able to correctly translate words and phrases.
The case was only able to continue with the assistance of Kaur's junior counsel, Sukhdev Garcha.
In total it cost the court a day's work, at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds.
Mr Garcha said: "I couldn't believe the first interpreter was so woefully inadequate and then it happened again with the second who was completely out of her depth.
"She didn't understand a lot of words and phrases and her vocabulary was completely lacking.
"If I hadn't spoken up then people in the court would have thought everything was being interpreted correctly.
"It would have been to the detriment of our client - we could have had a miscarriage of justice.
"That's the price you pay."
Defence barrister Jonathan Fuller QC added: "It's at the very heart of the justice system because the words are the evidence.
"If you find, as a defence counsel, that you are calling evidence on words that are unreliable then that is the start of a miscarriage of justice."
Mr Justice Barnett declined to comment further.