27 February 2015
Slovenian man demands 591 pages of court documents be translated - at cost of £23,000
Britain’s top family judge has rejected a Slovenian man’s demands that hundreds of court documents be translated into his language – at a cost of £23,000 to British taxpayers.
The father, who lives in the Midlands, but cannot be named for legal reasons, is locked in a legal row with a British council over his young daughter’s care, wanted 600 pages of text translated into his mother tongue.
Otherwise, he argued, he “could not participate” in a court dispute with crucial implications for his family life.
His lawyers argued that the £38-a-page translation cost should be shouldered by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA).
But Sir James Munby, President of the High Court Family Division, blasted the “striking” request and ruled that less than 10 per cent of the documents needed translation.
The judge made a “plea for restraint in the expenditure of public funds”, saying the amount of taxpayers’ cash available is “limited” and must be “husbanded properly”.
He added: “It is no good complaining that public funds are available only for X and not for Y if money available for X is being squandered.
“Money should only be spent on what is ‘necessary’ to enable the court to deal with proceedings ‘justly’.”
Sir James said the Slovenian resident, referred to as “K”, is embroiled in care proceedings with Warwickshire County Council over the future of his eight-year-old daughter.
K does not speak English but does have the benefit of a solicitor who speaks Slovenian.
It was agreed that some of the documents needed translation - at a cost of just over 10p a word.
But the LAA’s eyebrows were raised when K’s lawyers requested that 591 pages be translated - at a total cost to the public purse of £23,000.
The agency rejected the request, last December, saying: “It is accepted that if the client cannot speak or read English he does need to understand the evidence.
“However, it is very unlikely indeed that he will actually [need] to read such a large volume of the documentation”.
The case was referred to Sir James, who criticised the lawyers involved for submitting a bundle of legal documents which was two-and-a-half times the size of usual judicial limits.
He said there was “absolutely no excuse” for being unfamiliar with directions limiting the size of files submitted in family cases.