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Monday, 30 June 2014

Losing it in translation

30 June 2014 by James Morton

Losing it in translation
Reading the Gazette on the current problems of finding interpreters for defendants reminds me of the 1970s, when competent interpreters were even more thin on the ground.
Thames magistrates’ court, with foreign seamen coming up, had particular problems. I think it was the magistrate Donaldson Loudon, not generally regarded as having a great sense of humour, who decided he would himself interpret for a German charged with drunkenness. The first bit went well. ‘Tronk?’ he asked. ‘Ja,’ said the man.
‘Drei pund,’ said Loudon. ‘He’s only got 10 shillings,’ said the clerk. ‘Funf shilling’ said Loudon, ‘that’s the trouble in trying to speak a language you don’t really understand.’
He did rather better than one of the regular court spectators who, when no interpreter could be found and presumably sniffing a few pounds, volunteered to act in another German case. Unfortunately his ability was taken as read. This lack of testing was cruelly exposed from the opening words. ‘Ask him if he was drunk’, said the clerk. ‘Voss you drunk?’ barked the soi-disant interpreter in what he deemed to be a thick German accent.
Things went downhill so fast that the interpreter ended up with an afternoon in the cells for contempt.
It was at Bow Street that I played a small but heroic part in the struggle for justice. I forget who the magistrate was: it cannot have been David Hopkin who spoke fluent Italian and once, to keep himself amused, tried to get me to conduct my mitigation in the language. ‘I could do it in French,’ I volunteered. ‘No, Italian, Mr Morton, Italian.’ I said something like ‘Mille scusi’, which he regarded as sufficient.
This time, however, the Italian interpreter made no impression and turned in despair to the clerk saying, ‘I can’t make him understand a word. He comes from a very remote region and speaks only a dialect.’
The solicitors’ pit was between the bench and the dock and, as I had just returned from a few days on the Costa del Crime, I twigged what was going on. I passed a note saying, ‘It’s because she’s talking to him in Spanish’. I never received the credit I thought I deserved for averting yet another miscarriage of justice.
James Morton is a writer and former criminal defence solicitor

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Fear of costly migrant influx proves unfounded as translation bill for Cambridgeshire force cut by half

24 June 2014

Fear of costly migrant influx proves unfounded as translation bill for Cambridgeshire force cut by half
Fears translation service costs for Cambridgeshire police would soar with an influx of migrants seem to have been proved unfounded after it was revealed the bill has almost halved.
Fresh data has now been released by the force showing the cost of translation services in 2012/13 fell to £345,000 from £420,000 in 2011/12 £420,000 and £623,000 the previous year.
The bill is now at its lowest level since the expansion of the EU in 2004 allowed workers to move freely through member states. And fears taxpayers’ would have to pick up the bill when Britain lifted work restrictions to Bulgaria and Romania also proved unfounded in Cambridgeshire.
Data also revealed the force spent just £9.10 on Bulgarian and £1,357.84 on Romanian translators in January last year, when the restrictions were in place – and they have spent nothing at all on translators for the two languages after restrictions were lifted.
Former Chief Constable Julie Spence famously took her fight to central Government in a bid for an extra £17 million to deal with population changes back in 2007.
Mrs Spence said officers were dealing with 100 languages with a translation bill for the force of at least £800,000 in 2006/7, amid fears it would increase. In 2009/10 that bill stood at £809,000.
The most commonly translated languages in the county are Polish, Czech, Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian, Slovak and Lithuanian and the force has some multi-lingual officers on the beat.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

PQ - 19 June 2014


19 June 2014
Courts: Interpreters
House of Lords

Lord Beecham (Labour)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to review the arrangements for providing court interpreters in the light of recent criticism by the President of the Family Division.

Lord Faulks (Conservative)
The arrangements for the provision of interpreters are kept under review.
There has been dramatic improvements in performance in the last two years. The Ministry continues to manage contracts to ensure this improvement is maintained.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

No pleas over Carmarthen 'kidnap' claim

18 June 2014

No pleas over Carmarthen 'kidnap' claim
Four Latvian men have appeared at Swansea Crown Court in relation to an alleged kidnapping and assault in Carmarthen.
The defendants were unable to enter any pleas due to the fact the court had been unable to arrange for a Latvian interpreter to be present.
Judge Peter Heywood ordered the defendants to return to Swansea Crown Court on September 5 for their next hearing, when they will be asked to enter pleas. The court was informed that a Latvian, Polish and a Bulgarian interpreter would probably be required if a trial was to take place.
Nikiferovs, Turcans and Goldins were all released on bail with the condition that they do not contact any prosecution witnesses.