The Linguist

The Linguist 58,5 - October/November 2019

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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FEATURES 12 The Linguist Vol/58 No/5 2019 Insights into a sexual assault trial, as sue leschen considers how cuts to legal aid and misunderstandings about the interpreter's role complicate the work I have interpreted in many sexual offence cases over the years, so when I am contacted about another such assignment, I accept even though it means travelling quite far from home, including overnight stays. the case turns out to be fairly typical, highlighting the many demands on legal interpreters and how we strive to deliver a professional service – often in difficult circumstances. I am booked to attend crown court at 10am and the court clerk asks me to wait with the defendant in the public waiting room. Unfortunately, many courts do not have separate waiting rooms for interpreters. having introduced myself to the defendant, I deliberately keep my distance pending the arrival of his barrister. defendants have been known to allege (falsely) that their interpreter has given them advice such as to plead not guilty. the barrister rolls up an hour late and asks me to interpret at the pre-hearing conference, as the defendant's solicitors haven't booked their own interpreter. this is an increasingly common situation due to recent cuts in legal aid, and one which urgently needs clarifying. In my experience, judges are inconsistent on this matter. some criticise us for interpreting at such conferences, while others order us to interpret for any party or witness, as the hearing can't proceed that day without us! this can mean interpreting for one or more of the parties throughout the hearing, as well as during all of counsels' conferences and/or solicitors' consultations with their clients. obviously, there is a fatigue issue here, as well as a potential conflict of interest. Firstly, we are being ordered to work for lawyers who have neither booked us nor are responsible for paying us. and secondly, we may unwittingly transfer privileged data and terminology from one party to another, such as an alias or a date. Where feelings are running high, one or all of the parties may see a 'shared' interpreter as some kind of spy flitting between separate camps. on this particular occasion, the defendant's barrister asks me to come to court an hour early the following day for a pre-hearing conference with his client. I decline as I won't be paid to attend before my booked time. A legal challenge SEEKING JUSTICE The legal team (main image) may have inappropriate expectations of the interpreter; while the view of a witness or defendant (above) may be obscured, making the interpreter's job harder © PhotograPherlondon | © Ijdema |

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