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Interpreter request is refused by court because man has 'been in UK long enough'

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Donald Rutherford  Identity Verified
German to English
Interpreter request refused May 11, 2012

I agree with the judge.

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George Hopkins
Local time: 14:54
Swedish to English
Judge May 11, 2012

Thank goodness there are judges who can make such reasonable decisions.

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David Wright  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 14:54
German to English
+ ...
Odd May 11, 2012

It doesn't actually say how long the man has been in the UK. I agree thoguh that at the age of 26, if he's been there a couple of years he should have a sufficient command of the language to follow a court case. If on the other hand he's a very recent arrival, then that might not be the case.

I remember the problems I had with officialdom (not the courts) during my first years in Austria, largely due to my incomprehension of the language being used (not standard German) and can appreciate that even if this guy has learnt English at school in his hoem country it won't necessarily equip him to understand english like wot she is spoke in Plymouth!


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 20:54
Chinese to English
UK judges seem pretty good May 11, 2012

I can only judge based on what I see in the media, but I consistently impressed by the quality of the British judiciary. And he does specifically ask for the court officers to use normal English, so it is not an unsympathetic decision.

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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:54
Hebrew to English
Oooh I dunno.... May 11, 2012

Phil Hand wrote:

I can only judge based on what I see in the media, but I consistently impressed by the quality of the British judiciary. And he does specifically ask for the court officers to use normal English, so it is not an unsympathetic decision.


For every half-decent call made by a judge there's usually two which make you think "what planet are these people on?".


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Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 14:54
German to English
What? May 11, 2012

If he can't speak English he has a right to an interpreter. The principle that the accused needs to understand what is going on at his own trial has to be among the most basic foundations of a constitutional government. It does not matter why he can't understand, whether he's a recent immigrant, went to a bad school, socially disadvantaged ... or even if he's stupid or lazy!
I know a lot of Americans and Brits who have lived in Berlin for a long time and could not begin to follow a legal proceeding, let alone participate on fair terms.

I have no real opinion about English judges and would like to emphasize that I find it just as likely that the accused and his lawyer are just causing trouble (that the defendant can, in fact, follow the proceedings), but the argument offered in the summary of the article demonstrates (at best) a lack of understanding of the basic principles of modern society.

[Edited at 2012-05-11 15:44 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 14:54
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Impossible to comment May 11, 2012

It is not really possible to comment unless we know a little more about the accused. This case has been mentioned a number of times in the press (even before the judge made this decision) and nowhere does it state how long he has lived in the UK.

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Donald Rutherford  Identity Verified
German to English
interpreter request May 11, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:

Phil Hand wrote:

I can only judge based on what I see in the media, but I consistently impressed by the quality of the British judiciary. And he does specifically ask for the court officers to use normal English, so it is not an unsympathetic decision.


For every half-decent call made by a judge there's usually two which make you think "what planet are these people on?".


I often wonder what planet some people in authority are on.


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Neil Coffey  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:54
French to English
+ ...
Hard to assess May 11, 2012

Obviously, the judge is party to information that we're not so it's hard to assess.

My thoughts would just be:

- if the judge has made the call that the defendant cannot have an interpreter, then he obviously places a heavier burden on himself to ensure that his condition of the barristers "keeping their language simple" is actually met and that the defendant does understand everything that is being said
- he may be saving some time and a tiny bit of money in the short term, but it's a procedural point which is open to criticism at a later stage, e.g. in a decision to allow an appeal
- where do you then draw the line in determining what other defendants' rights you decide not to uphold?

A later retrial because of this technicality could prove much more costly than a couple of hours' of an interpreter's time (especially at the newly revised pay rates...). However, from the nature of the crime, I suppose this could well be a fairly open-and-shut case.

I'm slightly bemused at the statement that "interpreters are expensive". Providing fair justice is per se expensive but as a society we decide that that expense is worth bearing in order to protect the Kind Of Society that we want to live in.

And compared to a judge's salary, it's not clear to me that interpreters' earnings are exactly naked profiteering.

[Edited at 2012-05-11 16:33 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:54
Spanish to English
+ ...
Me too May 11, 2012

Donald Rutherford wrote:

I agree with the judge.


The bloke was smart enough to blag a merc, he can surely muddle through his court case.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:54
Spanish to English
+ ...
Also agree May 11, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:

For every half-decent call made by a judge there's usually two which make you think "what planet are these people on?".


Or three or five...


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Rolf Kern  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 14:54
English to German
+ ...
Unbeleavable May 11, 2012

Our Portuguese cleanup-woman has been living here in Zurich in the German part of Switzerland for at least 15 years and still does not speak or understand a single word of German.

Rolf Kern
Zurich, Switzerland


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Stefan Blommaert  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:54
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
Agree May 11, 2012

Michael Wetzel wrote:

If he can't speak English he has a right to an interpreter. The principle that the accused needs to understand what is going on at his own trial has to be among the most basic foundations of a constitutional government. It does not matter why he can't understand, whether he's a recent immigrant, went to a bad school, socially disadvantaged ... or even if he's stupid or lazy!
I know a lot of Americans and Brits who have lived in Berlin for a long time and could not begin to follow a legal proceeding, let alone participate on fair terms.

I have no real opinion about English judges and would like to emphasize that I find it just as likely that the accused and his lawyer are just causing trouble (that the defendant can, in fact, follow the proceedings), but the argument offered in the summary of the article demonstrates (at best) a lack of understanding of the basic principles of modern society.

[Edited at 2012-05-11 15:44 GMT]


I have modified my post...Apparently, people think that basic legal rights are quite inferior to the hegemony of English as spoken language. So be it...I am done with participating in interesting discussions here.

Have fun! I am beginning to feel better about my decision to move away again from the UK. Even though I think I master the English language pretty well, I would like to be assisted by an interpreter if ever I should appear in court. Apparently, this is an opinion that is not shared by (a lot of) British people. Don't forget that the degree of civilization of a country can be measured by the way it treats its minorities (I think this is Bertrand Russel, one of the more "valuable" Brits). People who do not speak the language of the country they live in, are by definition a minority.

[Edited at 2012-05-11 22:00 GMT]

[Edited at 2012-05-11 22:01 GMT]


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Texte Style
Local time: 14:54
French to English
Agree May 11, 2012

SBL_UK/BR wrote:

Michael Wetzel wrote:

If he can't speak English he has a right to an interpreter. The principle that the accused needs to understand what is going on at his own trial has to be among the most basic foundations of a constitutional government. It does not matter why he can't understand, whether he's a recent immigrant, went to a bad school, socially disadvantaged ... or even if he's stupid or lazy!
I know a lot of Americans and Brits who have lived in Berlin for a long time and could not begin to follow a legal proceeding, let alone participate on fair terms.

I have no real opinion about English judges and would like to emphasize that I find it just as likely that the accused and his lawyer are just causing trouble (that the defendant can, in fact, follow the proceedings), but the argument offered in the summary of the article demonstrates (at best) a lack of understanding of the basic principles of modern society.

[Edited at 2012-05-11 15:44 GMT]


If English is not his native tongue, then it doesn't really matter for what reason he needs an interpreter. Even someone who steals a car (and who most probably should be found guilty) is entitled to some basic rights. It is definitely NOT up to a judge to decide who has the right to be assisted by an interpreter and who hasn't, even when the accused (and his or her sollicitor) are of the 'lower kind" and try to complicate things.

On a broader note: of course it is up to the "rest of the world" to learn English, piece of cake isn't it?
Then why, when I invert this reasoning, do I meet so few English (or Americans) who live abroad and who refuse to make the effort of learning the language of the place they live in....Oh yes, I forget, it is up to the rest of the world to adapt itself! Stupid me!

By the way: I would like to see a study on the comprehension of the average Brit when it comes to official and/or legal language. I think we could have a laugh there.


My thoughts exactly. The way the judiciary talk, I think I would need an interpreter, into everyday English.

And I too know some people who have lived here in France for maybe 30 years without learning the language properly.

I also agree with Neil that it's short-sighted penny-pinching. If the guy is asking for an interpreter just to be a nuisance then that makes him all the more likely to appeal too just to be a nuisance. And I don't like it when people decide they can muddle through with a translator or an interpreter. They're quite simply being disparaging about our professions.

Since it's a cut-and-dried case, surely we could also dispense with a judge? Now that would save a few quid wouldn't it?


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:54
Hebrew to English
Give me a banana quick! May 11, 2012

SBL_UK/BR wrote:
On a broader note: of course it is up to the "rest of the world" to learn English, piece of cake isn't it?
Then why, when I invert this reasoning, do I meet so few English (or Americans) who live abroad and who refuse to make the effort of learning the language of the place they live in....Oh yes, I forget, it is up to the rest of the world to adapt itself! Stupid me!


I think this is a bit off-topic. Just to address it anyway, I don't actually believe the whole world should learn English, but I do believe people intending on settling in England permanently should really invest in learning the language (as any immigrant in any country probably should - it's not limited to immigrants to English speaking countries). There are actually plenty of British and American ex-pats who did learn the local language (many of them on here!) but there will always be those who, for whatever reason, don't learn it. By the way, this too isn't limited to English speaking ex-pats.

By the way: I would like to see a study on the comprehension of the average Brit when it comes to official and/or legal language. I think we could have a laugh there.


To be frank, I find this ever so slightly offensive... We're not a bunch of primates scraping our knuckles off the floor. Whilst even I don't personally highly rate the general intelligence of the British public, I'm sure most of them have no problem with offical and legal language. (In fact, this type of language is everywhere nowadays: "If you've had an accident at work that wasn't your fault....." + other legal adverts ad nauseum).

Back on topic:

As Neil initially pointed out, I suspect the judge is privy to information not available to us mere mortals, I can think of no other reason why he would rule this way. I suspect he has been in this country for quite a while (although I have no concrete evidence of this)...Although, despite being circumstantial evidence, the guy's Facebook profile is in English and at least one of his fellow-Kurdish-speaking-friends addresses him in English.....which doesn't necessarily "prove" anything, but it's interesting nonetheless....

Also, something I found quite funny for a guy who is accused of comandeering a BMW and driving it dangerously....he lists his favourite film as "Fast & Furious 5"...a rather vacuous film about..... driving smart cars dangerously.


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