Translators and interpreters are used in UK courts when cases involve someone who does not speak English well enough to understand what is happening and contribute to the proceedings, in whatever capacity they are serving. If a case is being funded privately, an interpreter will not be provided and will therefore have to be paid for.
Anyone who attends a committal hearing will be provided with an interpreter if they do not know sufficient English to follow proceedings. This is something that is determined by the Human Rights Act.
In a non-committal, possessions case, an interpreter will be provided if the litigant would be otherwise unable to take part in the hearing. This is allowed when public funding is not available, the litigant has no family or friends who the court would accept as their interpreter, and the judge states that the case is not able to proceed without one.
An interpreter will also be provided in some civil and family cases. These include those relating to domestic violence, cases involving children, as well as any which concern the Forced Marriage Act. As a result of the sensitive nature of such cases, having an interpreter when needed during these is a legal requirement.
There are three tiers of need when using interpreters during face-to-face meetings.
Tier One involves interpreters who attend evidential meetings, where there is often a written element as well. To undertake these tasks, the interpreter must be able to speak the relevant language fluently as well as being able to complete a full written translation of what is said.
Tier Two also involves the interpreter attending face-to-face meetings. Like those at Tier One, they can speak the language fluently, but are not able to provide a complete written translation of a high enough standard to suit the courts.
Tier Three interpreters provide face-to-face services in the community. Although they know the language well, it is not well enough to provide appropriate translation in court, or elsewhere that evidential matters are being discussed.
The above tiers all relate to a list of ‘standard’ languages, which are those that are relatively common. A further list, containing ‘rare’ languages. As there are a smaller number of interpreters available for these languages, they do not have to pass the same tests to qualify as an interpreter, although they do still need to prove their ability to provide such a service.
Alongside language interpreters and translators, those who use sign language can also be provided when needed.
It is vital that anyone involved in a legal process has the same opportunity to understand as well as being understood. This is especially important when the more specific language of law is used, because some terms are used differently than would be expected in everyday life, for example.
With the United Kingdom becoming even more of a multi-cultural society, it is increasingly common to encounter those who speak English as a second language, if at all. The legal system can be overwhelming for anyone, and this is heightened when you have difficulties with the language, therefore making translators and interpreters an integral part of the process.