The Linguist

The Linguist 54,4

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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10 The Linguist Vol/54 No/4 2015 Libby McVeigh on the work being done to help lawyers enforce the right to interpretation in criminal proceedings C riminal proceedings are daunting for every suspect or accused person, and are often characterised by a disparity in power and knowledge between suspects on the one hand, and the police and prosecuting authorities on the other. Even when a suspect speaks the language of the proceedings, it is recognised that he or she should never have to face police questioning, charges and trial preparation alone. Access to a lawyer is considered to be a 'gateway' to all other fair trial rights. Suspects who do not speak the language of the proceedings are clearly at a disadvantage, and access to a lawyer with whom they cannot communicate may be insufficient to redress the balance. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has therefore drawn a parallel between the role of interpreters/translators and that of lawyers, as a crucial safeguard of the rights of suspects in criminal proceedings. Increased migration to the EU and freedom of movement within its borders has meant that more and more people are facing criminal charges in EU Member States where they do not speak the language. So it is unsurprising that the challenges associated with ensuring that non-national suspects and defendants are able to understand and engage fully in the proceedings have increased. In October 2010, the European institutions took significant steps towards addressing these concerns by adopting the Directive 2010/64/EU on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings (the 'Directive'). The Directive came into force on 20 October 2013 and is binding on all 28 Member States: if any fails to comply it could face infringement proceedings at the EU's Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Codifying the existing yet rather inaccessible case law of the ECHR, the Directive not only requires that all suspects who do not speak or understand the language are provided with interpretation and translation services, but that those services should be of sufficient quality to safeguard the fairness of the proceedings. A further directive (2012/13/EU) on the right to information in criminal proceedings, which ensures that suspects are informed promptly of their right to interpretation and translation (as well as a list of other rights) was adopted in May 2012. The Directive requires all EU countries to have a system to determine whether or not a suspect requires language assistance, and to provide such assistance free of charge for proceedings before investigative and judicial authorities, during police questioning and for all court hearings. Crucially, it must also be available for key meetings between suspects and their lawyers, ensuring they can enjoy the benefits of legal representation. Written translations of documents, essential to enable suspects to exercise their defence rights, must be provided within a reasonable time and without charge, with oral translations only acceptable in exceptional circumstances. Given the concerns frequently raised by lawyers across the EU about the quality of language services in criminal proceedings, the provisions in the Directive relating to quality Seeking justice © SHUTTERSTOCK

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