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Statement taking when interpreting for the police
Thread poster: Kati Bumbera

Kati Bumbera  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:19
Hungarian to English
+ ...
Jan 14, 2009

Hi all...excuse the somewhat silly question but here it goes: is statement taking part of your job when you're interpreting for the police? Are there any guidelines on this? Thanks!

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Aline C.

Local time: 02:19
English to Finnish
Statement taking Jan 14, 2009

Yes, taking statements for the police (and other bodies - eg. Health and Safety Executive) in the language you interpret from into English is part of the job. Such statements are taken for witnesses. Make sure you are never left alone with a witness and make sure it is not you who asks the questions. Interpreter's role is limited to writing down what a witness says. I always back translate for the police officer what I have written down in Polish. Guidance about taking statements by interpreters is included in PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence Act) and some police forces issue their own guidelines for the ease of reference. You can look at police's website - such guidance can usually be found in the section discussing Freedom of Information - publications. Met Police has such guidance for sure. Look at their website or you can write to the FoI section with a request to send you such guidance. It is in the public domain and you can ask every police force you work for for such guidance.

I hope it is helpful and good luck!

Kasia


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Christina Courtright  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
additional point about interpreter and evidence Jan 14, 2009

I know you're referring to the UK, but this may be equivalent: In the US, the interpreter is included under the blanket of privilege (confidential communication) between attorney and client. However, that privilege does not extend to police interviews. Thus, if the suspect or witness says anything to you as interpreter, whether or not you are alone with him/her, you may be compelled to divulge it in an evidentiary setting. This is why a) never be alone with the person for whom you are interpreting, and b) be fully transparent about everything that is said.

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Kati Bumbera  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:19
Hungarian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jan 14, 2009

Thanks guys.

I recently did my first job for the police and I was a bit taken aback that I was asked to take the witness statement myself as it isn't really "interpreting" per se (as in, the police officer didn't do anything other than sitting in the room with me, that is, after I told them not to leave me alone with the witnesses) and I was wondering about impartiality and all that stuff that is generally included in every single code of conduct document I've ever seen. I'll definitely have a look at the PACE document, thanks again.


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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:19
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Home Office interviews, not Police Jan 14, 2009

Hi

This is odd...

I don't work for the Police, but I do work as an occasional interpreter for the Home Office.

I have never taken/written down a statement. I purely act as the "voice" and it is the Home Office officer who does all the writing down and questioning. He/she writes down what is said on the form once I have interpreted what has been said by the "interviewee"...

I have to say I don't like the sound of what you have been asked to do.

Liz Askew


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Kati Bumbera  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:19
Hungarian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
This is what I thought but... Jan 14, 2009

Thanks Liz. I thought it was odd too, but well, it was my first police job and I assumed it wasn't *their* first time with an interpreter. Apparently I wasn't the only beginner in the room!

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Aline C.

Local time: 02:19
English to Finnish
Home Office interviews vs police interviews Jan 15, 2009

Yes, immigration interviews are different from police interviews. The police takes statements in criminal matters so the rules of evidence are different (more stringent) than in immigration matters that are decided by immigration caseworkers and go to (civil) court only on appeal. A witness for the police has to sign their statement - that is why this statement must be in their own language so they can read it. Later, if the case goes to court, before this witness gives evidence they will be given the statement they gave at the police to refresh their memory. In immigration cases it is a case worker who writes everything down in English but the person interviewed does not have to sign it stating that the material is in English and not in their own language. (later an asylum seeker can prepare their own statement with his lawyers). Health and Safety executive - which investigates accidents at work - also have powers to prosecute employers in criminal courts and that is why their procedure for witness taking is the same as the police's procedure. Later, you may be asked to translate this statement into English, although some police forces prefer to send such statement to another translator to have it translated.
Do not believe a police officer who tells you that they do not know how to take a statement with an interpreter. They should know that, it is part of their training to be told that, police officers must know how to prepare evidence that is admissable in court. If they do not know that they should refer to their commanding officer for guidance or read PACE (there is a very helpful index - just look under interpreter and statement). In my experience when a police officer tells you they do not know, they usually want you to do their work for them. Under no circumstances engage in any conversation with a witness without interpreting back what is being said. The police officer's role is not just limited to sitting in a room, they must ask all the questions and decide what goes into the statement - e.g. witnesses usually give you a lot of irrelevant details that do not have to go into the statement etc. And statement usually follows a certain pattern, it is the police officer who knows what should go there and in what sequence.
Good luck

Kasia


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Kati Bumbera  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:19
Hungarian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Kasia! Jan 15, 2009

Thanks for the helpful response Kasia!

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liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:19
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Thank you Kasiak.. Jan 15, 2009

Your response is very interesting.


I had not realised that the police statement had to be taken in the foreign language. Well, there you go:-

So, now I understand why it is the interpreter who writes it down.

Liz Askew


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Statement taking when interpreting for the police

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