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Use of Interpreters in a Major Crime Suspect Interviews. Martin Vaughan and Kerry Marlow Oslo -2010. Background to Research. Operation Compass: 22 Suspects 364 Suspect Interviews 16 Interviewers 7 Interpreters Operation Lund: 10 suspects 35 witnesses 6 interpreters.

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use of interpreters in a major crime suspect interviews

Use of Interpretersin a Major Crime Suspect Interviews

Martin Vaughan and Kerry Marlow

Oslo -2010

background to research
Background to Research

Operation Compass:

  • 22 Suspects
  • 364 Suspect Interviews
  • 16 Interviewers
  • 7 Interpreters

Operation Lund:

  • 10 suspects
  • 35 witnesses
  • 6 interpreters
financial implications
Financial implications
  • BBC news online 2008 : Lincolnshire spent more than £300,000 on 49 languages
  • Daily Mail online 2008 : CC of Kent pent £34m over 3 years 2005-2007 on immigrant crime
  • H.O. 2008:interpreter services increased 75% in 2006 – 2007
  • Wales On Sunday 2008 : Welsh Forces spent over £2m in 7 years on interpreters
  • Gwent Police reported a 105% increase on cost of interpreters over 2005 – 2006 in 34 languages
code of practice
Code of Practice

A person must not be interviewed in the absence of a person capable of interpreting if:

  • (a) they have difficulty understanding English;
  • (b) the interviewer cannot speak the person’s own language;
  • (c) the person wants an interpreter present.

The interviewer should allow sufficient time for the interpreter to note each question and answer after each is put, given and interpreted.

The person should be allowed to read the record or have it read to them and sign it as correct or indicate the respects in which they consider it inaccurate. If the interview is audibly recorded or visually recorded, the guidance states there is no necessity to make notes. In the case of a person making a statement to a police officer or other police staff other than in English:

  • (a) the interpreter shall record the statement in the language it is made;
  • (b) the person shall be invited to sign it;
  • (c) an official English translation shall be made in due course.
  • Article 5 of the ECHR says that everyone arrested shall be informed promptly, in a language that they understand, of the reason for the arrest and of any charge against them.
  • Article 6 of the ECHR states that everyone charged with a criminal offence has the right:
  • To be informed promptly, in a language that they understand and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against them;
  • To have the free assistance of an interpreter if they cannot understand or speak the language used in the court.
Interpreters are provided at public expense and all reasonable steps must be made to inform the person concerned.
  • The interpreter must be able to understand, speak, read and write both English and the other language to a standard that includes the specialised terms and procedures encountered in police interviews such as the ‘caution’.
  • They must be familiar with both cultural backgrounds and be able to translate and interpret accurately.
  • They must also act in an impartial professional manner and respect confidentiality.
Currently the National Agreement issued by the Office of Criminal Justice Reform (OCJR) in January 2007 states that qualified interpreters with a Diploma in Public Service Interpreting or equivalent should be used in the criminal justice system.
  • The standard requirement is that every interpreter who works in the criminal justice arena should be registered with one of the recommended registers, for example, the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) at full or interim status with law option for non-English spoken languages.
Luk (2007) found :
  • That between January and May 2006 forces in the East Midlands areas had an average of around 40% of interpreters on the national register.
  • In Lincolnshire, only one in five interpreters sent to the police stations was a full member of the register with a law option.
  • That the main concern from practicing interpreters is the widespread use of unqualified interpreters
Nakane (2007 : 87)

Reported that for suspects who come from different cultural backgrounds or legal systems and who rely on interpreters in police interviews, ensuring a thorough understanding of their rights and appropriately invoking these rights can be difficult.

  • Case of R v B (2007)

A defendant had not received a fair trial where proceedings were conducted in a language in which he was not fluent and consequently he had not understood critical parts of the proceedings and his answers in police interviews and cross-examination at trial could not be said to be reliable.

Nakane (2007 : 89) reported a number of factors which may lead to difficulties in the interpreting process in communicating the suspect’s rights in police interviews.
  • Rendering an originally written legal text in a face-to-face speech mode
  • The degree to which the illocutionary force and the legal implications of the caution can be maintained in the translation
  • The interpreter’s understanding of the meaning and legal implications of the caution
  • The dynamics of the interpreter-mediated interaction
  • The degree to which cultural or institutional gaps are to be bridged by the interpreter
  • The interpreter’s professional competence
Russell (2000:27) reported that following her examination of interpreting from English into French she found that there were more frequent dis-fluency surrounding the caution sequences than in the main questioning sequences.
  • Russell suggests that interpreters may take a mediator-like role in such situations and co-construct the text with police officers.
Dam (2004)Taking notes in the target language is different: as two languages—that of the incoming speech and that of the notes — are concurrently present, language conversion or simultaneous activation of two languages becomes an additional requirement and the note-taking task consequently more demanding
  • Napier (2004) the highest number of omissions tended to occur in segments of higher than average lexical density. This is not particularly surprising, as any interpreting scholar would expect interpreters to struggle when dealing with factors contributing to ‘cognitive overload’ (Moser-Mercer et al. 1998).
key findings from the gwent investigation scoping exercise
Key Findings From the Gwent investigation/scoping exercise:
  • Inconsistent approach to the delivery of the specific training courses
  • Interviews were being conducted without the interpreter being aware of the content of the introduction phase of the interview
  • Interpreters were not being afforded time to plan and prepare their translation
  • Interviewer’s not identifying words and phrases to be interpreted prior to an interviewing
  • Interviewees requiring interpreters on average remained in police custody 6.5 hours longer (24 hour period) than their English speaking counterparts.
50% of those surveyed stated that they did not translate any processes prior to the interview
  • There was no consistent method of room construction when employing an interpreter
  • A summary should be presented to the interpreter before delivery to the suspect to allow a more accurate translation to take place
  • The process is time consuming
  • Validation process must be conducted
key findings from interpreters
Key Findings from Interpreters
  • All legal processes should be interpreted prior to the interview
  • A full explanation of the role of the interpreter should be included into the opening of an interview with a suspect
  • Training required in relation to note taking
issues for research
Issues for Research

Specifically examining the following issues:

  • Briefings – setting ground rules
  • Notetaking – Accuracy
  • Questioning – does the models work efficiently for the court process
  • Use of technology