Court Interpreter in certain cout procedures
Thread poster: sandymay

Local time: 19:59
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Sep 1, 2007


I am currently a DPSI student (legal option) and for the last couple of weeks i had a change to observe different court settings, but unfortunately i wasn't lucky enough to see someone who would need interpreters help.
And i wondered,during the court session when a defendant is giving evidence in the witness box, where does an interpreter stand? And when defence and prosecution lawyers, each present their cases (to the judge or even jurors during the trial), does interpreter need to interpret what is beeing said ?
Or perhaps, someone would be kind enough to detail the parts in which interpreter needs to interpret during the court session. I would be the most grateful.It is still very new to me.

Thank you.

[Edited at 2007-09-01 08:51]


Ewa Dabrowska  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:59
English to Polish
+ ...
court interpreting Sep 1, 2007

When you interpret for a witness/defendent in a witness box you need to stand close to them, so either in the box (if it's big enough for 2 people) or just outside it. Normally, this part is interpreted consecutively. If you interpret for the defendent (normally in the dock), you need to interpret everything, most of which is simultenous interpretation. Does that answer your questions? Most cases are open to the public and you can come and have a look. If you go to e.g. City of Westminster Magistrates Court (if you are based in London) you can see at least a dozen interpreters a day (including your language pair), however, most hearings are not trials.


alexandratheres  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:59
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Interpreter in court Sep 2, 2007

Regarding where the interpreter is placed in the court proceedings I agree fully with Eva. As the interpreter needs to stay close to the person/group he/she is interpreting for.

The need of an interpreter in court very much depends on the role the person who needs an interpreter has in the case. Sometimes the interpreter has to be present through the entire case, and sometimes only during the questioning of one witness.


Alexandra Therese Solaas


teju  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:59
English to Spanish
+ ...
There are many variables Sep 2, 2007

Hi Sandy,
I'm a US federal court interpreter, and the first thing that comes to mind is that every court has its own protocol. Even within the US, each court is slightly different. And inside each courtroom, each judge will have his or her own rules.
If the interpreter doesn't have any equipment, he will be forced to stand fairly close to the person he's interpreting for. I prefer to be right behind them. If there's wireless equipment, the interpreter can actually position himself in the courtroom wherever is most convenient for him, as the protocol allows. If the sound equipment is not wireless, then he is restricted to the length of the wires.
Also, is the interpreter interpreting for the defendant? If so, then everything must be interpreted. It's all done in simultanous mode, except witness testimony (and sometimes sight interpreting), which must be done consecutively since the interpretation goes on the record, and everyone must be able to hear it. What's intepreted simultaneously is only heard by the person the interpreter is interpreting for.
The only time when the interpreter does not interpret everything is when he or she is hired to interpret only for a witness.
In my experience, when I interpret at a trial, for the defendant, I usually sit next to him, or right behind him, while he/she is at the defense table. When he's testifying, I normally stand right by the witness stand. Whenever I've been able to have wireless equipment, I've actually moved around the courtroom to position myself wherever I can see the speaker better. I don't move around a lot, I just find a place that makes my job easier, and move only if someone else is speaking for a long time, and I can't see them. Most judges don't mind this. But, every place is different. I say we should be allowed to do our job the best way possible. For hearings, I usually sit at the witness stand, as long as it's not needed for a witness. If it is, then I sit at the defense table, or I stand on the side, behind the witness stand.
I have friends who work in federal court in the city where I live, who have a place where they must sit all the time, they are not allowed to move. In the next town, we have more freedom to move about, in federal and district court. Some judges are really particular about what goes on in their courtroom, making our job more difficult than it should be with certain restrictions.
I've also interpreted for members of the jury, in which case I sit outside the jury box, so no one is confused, we wouldn't want anyone to think that I was a juror. Whenver the jury retires to deliberate, I go with them, sitting on a chair behind the person I interpret for, again, to remind everyone I'm not one of them. I try to be as unobtrusive as possible.
I also avoid not being too close to the person I interpret for, for many reasons, one of them is that we are officers of the court. At no time we want to give anyone the impression that we work for anyone, I'm not there for the defense, I'm not there for the prosecution, and I don't work for the defendant either, I was hired by the court, and I'm totally impartial. Another reason not to want to stand too close is the obvious one, I don't interpret for civil cases, only criminal ones.
The advice that Eva gave you is excellent. Go observe. I find that if you introduce yourself to the staff interpreters, and let them know that you are studying to become one, they will welcome you. They might even allow you to borrow an extra headset so you may be able to hear the interpretation. That's a really good way to learn, bring a notebook to take notes, and a dictionary. You'll also be able to observe the rules of each courtroom that you visit. Call ahead, speak to the someone at the interpreter's office, and find out when they will have an interpreted proceeding.
Whenever you get an assignment, it would be a good idea to go observe how that particular judge runs his/her courtroom, so that you are familiar with the routine beforehand. If there is an interpreter association in the city where you live, join, it's a great way to network, and get to know your colleagues. Later on, when you go observe their work, you've already met some of them, and that helps.
I hope I've answered your questions, if not, write again! Good luck to you in the future,


Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:59
English to Spanish
+ ...
She's Right Sep 2, 2007

I can only second what Teju says, we live in the same city and have had similar experiences.

And as she emphasizes, the situation can be quite variable, therefore you need to observe in as many courts and situations as you can. I am sure it can be quite variable where you are as well.


Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:59
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Ask the court staff Sep 2, 2007

In the US, as my colleagues have pointed out, procedures differ from one court to another. The impression I have from reading UK newspapers is that judges in the UK have some latitude in how they run their courtrooms, so I suspect this is true in the UK as well. There is undoubtedly an official who ensures that for every hearing the defendant, the prosecutor, the judge, etc. are all aware when and where the hearing/trial is to be held and that the courtroom is not being used for some other purpose at that time. Perhaps you could set up an appointment with such an official (whom you could probably locate by calling the court's switchboard) and ask these questions.


Local time: 19:59
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
Thank you all Sep 2, 2007

Thank you all very much. I appreciate your time spent to reply to my question and this has been a great help and support. As most of you have suggested, i need to go to court,sit and observe, i guess that's the only way to at least get fammiliar with the way things run before i get thrown into it for real. And hopefully, this time i'll be lucky to see an interpreter in actionicon_wink.gif

Thanks very much again.


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Court Interpreter in certain cout procedures

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