Witness fees in UK courts
Thread poster: StarLily
StarLily
Local time: 04:36
Swedish to English
+ ...
Jan 25, 2010

I completed some translation work for a UK agency, who subsequently contacted me because their client (solicitors) had asked whether I would be willing to attend the case at court. I said yes, provided the client would pay my costs.

I have now been cited as a witness by the court, and the citation states: "You are entitled to some payment for out-of-pocket travelling and subsistence expenses. ... If you lose earnings, ... you can be paid some compensation subject to certain limits. These payments are the responsibility of the party who has called you as a witness and his representative."

I sent the translation agency a list of my anticipated expenses (travel, hotel, subsistence, 8 days of my time at my usual hourly rate, travel time, etc.) so that the solicitors would be aware of how much it would cost to have me appear. The translation agency are saying this is unreasonable and seem to expect me to attend on some kind of pro bono basis! It is a civil case concerning who should pay for something. Surely it is standard to be paid for your time if you are attending on a professional basis? As far as I can see, I am acting as an expert witness since I am being cited solely for my skills in the language concerned. All other professionals involved in the case will be being paid, and ultimately the costs will be paid by the losing party (or their insurance).

Does anyone else have experience of this and if so, were you appropriately compensated?


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Stanislaw Czech, MCIL  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:36
Member (2006)
English to Polish
+ ...
Witness and expert witness is not the same thing Jan 25, 2010

As interpreter you are an expert witness and receive renumeration as such.

being a witness is entirely different story - witnesses' expenses are paid by the court and usually it covers travel expenses, etc.

I am positive that no court will pay you your interpreter's fees when you appear as a witness.

You could ask the the client to cover such cost however I don't think that it is customary.

Best Regards
Stanislaw

PS: I am curious what are experiences of others


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StarLily
Local time: 04:36
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Question misunderstood Jan 25, 2010

I think you misunderstood my question. I do not expect the court to pay for my expenses/lost earnings. As I quoted: "These payments are the responsibility of the party who has called you as a witness", i.e. the solicitors concerned.

I am not acting as an interpreter in court. I will be there solely because I translated some written documents relating to the case, on a freelance basis, via a translation agency. It is the translation agency that now thinks I should give their client eight working days of my time for free.


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Russell Jones  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:36
Italian to English
Say no Jan 25, 2010

I cannot claim any relevant experience.
However, in a civil case, I cannot imagine that a court can summons a witness (and then determine what expenses are acceptable).
Surely it is up to each litigant to provide the evidence required to support their case and pay the fees quoted by any professional witness.
In the absence of more authorative advice, I would be inclined to say that you are not prepared to work for less than your standard rate and then wait to see if thay can apply any enforcement measures (which I doubt).


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 05:36
English to Hungarian
+ ...
bill based on what you do Jan 25, 2010

I'd probably propose to bill all hours spent in court or doing any work related to the case, and ask for travel and hotel costs, plus a per diem for the period spent there. I don't think you'll be in court 8x8 hours, will you?

So if I were needed there for 8 days but only had to appear in court one afternoon, that'd be 8 per diems and half a day's wages; a lot less than 8 days' full wages, which would be unreasonable IMO.


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StarLily
Local time: 04:36
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Hours in court/sanctions for non-attendance Jan 25, 2010

The form of citation states:
'You must appear... on the date and at the time mentioned above and be prepared to give evidence at any time... If you do not appear, a warrant may be granted for your arrest.'

I am required to be at their disposal throughout the 8 days. The court is at least 6 hours' travel time distant from my home/office, so I will need to be based there for the entire time.

I have said that any of those court hours that I am able to spend on paid work, I will deduct from the hours I charge. (I am not trying to charge twice for my time.)


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 00:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
Talk to the right person Jan 25, 2010

Russell Jones wrote:
I cannot claim any relevant experience.


Nor can I, but...

As I see it, the translation agency has no reason to be a part of this 'negociation'. If you give testimony you do so as 'yourself', personally, not as 'the translation agency's subcontractor'.

You should, I believe, be discussing this directly with the solicitors who want you to appear as a witness, leaving the agency out of the loop.

MediaMatrix


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Weronika Tomaszewska-Collins  Identity Verified
United Arab Emirates
Local time: 07:36
English to Polish
+ ...
What about the agency? Jan 25, 2010

Aren't they the ones who are responsible for translation, having accepted work done by you and having delivered it to their client? You worked on a freelance basis, so I understand that you are not employed by the Agency and, therefore, shouldn't be acting as their representative. From the point of view of the end client - solicitors' company in this case - their documents had been translated by the Agency and not by you, in the same way in which you will provide the Agency as a referee, and not the solicitors.

As you have already agreed to attend the court as a witness, you should present the solicitors with the list of your expenses, and not the Agency. They are the ones to decide whether the amount you claim is acceptable for them and maybe - if they decide they can't or don't want to pay this much - they can give up on the idea of having you as a witness.

Still, I have no such experience, so it's only what seems reasonable to me.


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FarkasAndras
Local time: 05:36
English to Hungarian
+ ...
What? Jan 26, 2010

StarLily wrote:

The form of citation states:
'You must appear... on the date and at the time mentioned above and be prepared to give evidence at any time... If you do not appear, a warrant may be granted for your arrest.'


If was remotely close to being anything like true, why on earth would the client even consider paying your expenses, let alone wages?
This really sounds like your lawyers are in the habit of spewing out completely unfounded legal threats to make people do what they want them to.

You made it sound like the lawyers need you as a witness to help them out in a civil case, this makes it sound like the court summoned you to appear (can they even do that, and can people be arrested for not testifying in court?)


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Susanna Garcia  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:36
Italian to English
+ ...
Witness fees Jan 26, 2010

Without breaching confidentiality, what exactly did you translate please? I've never heard of this with respect to translated docs in court.
I''ve translated witness statements for the police which are then entered as evidence and numbered, but all I do is sign an additional statement stating my qualifications, to show I'm competent to translate, and that the translation is an accurate reflection etc., etc - much as per the interpreter's oath. I've never been called as a witness because of this. It seems very odd to me but obviously I'm no legal expert.


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 00:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
Further thoughts... Jan 26, 2010

It occurs to me to wonder why the solicitors want you as a witness. After all, they've got your translation (or at least, they've got the translation delivered to them by the agency, which might be different...).

It is not at all uncommon, where texts have to be translated in legal cases, for the 'other party' to contest the validity of the translation, or contest the credentials of the translator, or raise other objections casting doubt on the validity of the translation - and even to suggest that a translator has deliberately mis-translated something in order to favour their (the translator's) client.

Just for the sake of argument, let's suppose that the other party in this case has had your translations checked by another, supposedly 'better', translator - and is planning a slanging-match in court over the exact meaning of some obscure phrase in Italian with the aim of discrediting your translation into English. And suppose that the solicitors have already discussed the other party's objections with the agency - and the agency is simply passing the buck to you...

These are things that should be encouraging you, I believe, to talk to the solicitors directly. If you're going to court as a witness you should at least be aware of your true level of involvement in the case, if only to have a fair chance of defending your professionalism in open court, possibly in a confrontation with your peers. If you don't know the facts in advance, how are you going to survive in the witness stand if, when the other party hands you a copy of your translation, you sudenly discover it has been 'doctored' by the agency?

Although I can understand your concern over the matter of compensation for loss of earnings, I reckon that is of secondary importance in these circumstances...

MediaMatrix


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xxxmediamatrix
Local time: 00:36
Spanish to English
+ ...
Valid procedure Jan 26, 2010

FarkasAndras wrote:
...
You made it sound like the lawyers need you as a witness to help them out in a civil case, this makes it sound like the court summoned you to appear (can they even do that, and can people be arrested for not testifying in court?)


Procedures for getting witnesses to appear vary from one country to another. I don't know about the UK, but here in Chile, for example, 'friendly' witnesses in civil cases are usually 'invited' by the lawyer but 'unfriendly' witnesses are ordered to attend by the court and are liable to sanctions for non-attendance.

Although StarLily tells us it is the translation agency's client who wants her as a witness, implying she will be a 'friendly' witness in this case, we cannot be sure about that on the basis of the information in this thread (and in any case, it's not our business...).

All the more reason to get first-hand information from the solicitors - and failing that, from the court itself. At the very least, StarLily must know why she will be in court.

MediaMatrix


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StarLily
Local time: 04:36
Swedish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Many useful points Jan 26, 2010

Thank you for the useful points raised.

I do not know why they want me in court, because I have no direct contact with the solicitors. I am waiting for the translation agency to talk to their client and come back to me. If that does not clarify matters than I will ask to speak to the solicitors directly.

It is the translation agency that supplied and certified the translation; naturally I cannot represent them as I am not an employee. I'm not sure if the solicitors realise this and at the moment I am limited by what the translation agency has told them.

I assume that I am being called as a friendly witness. I didn't know which side I was translating for, so it would be hard to argue that I put a particular slant on things.


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:36
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Few more pointers Jan 27, 2010

StarLily wrote:
I am not acting as an interpreter in court. I will be there solely because I translated some written documents relating to the case, on a freelance basis, via a translation agency. It is the translation agency that now thinks I should give their client eight working days of my time for free.


Time is money, the court and the legal team knows that. To keep you there for eight days as a witness (expert or not) does not sound realistic. It seems they may have estimated the case to last eight days in court, and the agency was told about the time estimate and they just passed it on.
I would be astonished to learn that the court would expect you to be there for eight days, just because you translated a document and they need your testimony in person regarding the translation or because they want to question you about the translation.

In practice it may mean that you would have to be available for these days on a flexible basis and travel there when they reached the point of calling witnesses and they decided the order they are going to call them. The solicitor should be able to ascertain at what stage it is likely to happen and you should tell them in advance how much notice you require to get there in time.

When the trial starts, they get a more precise idea of the sequence and time scale of the proceedings, and they should be able to call you for a particular day, or update you as the case progressing to be ready to go when they reach that stage, as court proceeding don't always go according to pre-determined time scale.

It doesn't necessarily mean that when you go there you would be called to testify straight away, but the likelihood is that it would happen on the day or perhaps the next day. As you are travelling from a distance, it may even be possible to discuss to attend say from 11:00 a.m. and finish by 16:00-16:30 to enable you to go there and be back home on the same day.

I can't comment on the fees, because it is not clear who is hiring you (agency, solicitor's client, court?) and you have to establish the facts. If you decide to do it, make sure to have a letter stating who hired you and under what conditions.
The courts have standards for expert witnesses and you can get the relevant information from them.

From the professional point of view it is not very relevant which side called you, only the truth and facts count. Be prepared; once in the box, both parties will ask you questions, one in order to support their case, the other to disprove something.


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