Prohibitive cost of linguistic interpretation in legal proceedings

Other Names:
Shortage of properly trained court interpreters
Inadequate legal interpretation for the linguistically disadvantaged
Denial of right to access to interpreters in judicial hearings
Vulnerability of the speech and hearing impaired in a court of law

Where a country has linguistic minorities, they suffer difficulties in court unless proper provision is made on their behalf. This problem is particularly acute in countries where numerous local languages or dialects exist. Aliens also may find themselves faced with linguistic difficulties in court. The problem of language may affect not only accused persons or other parties to judicial proceedings, but also witnesses.

In any proceedings, a person financially able to make his own provisions is, on the whole, likely to command assistance of a higher calibre. Expenses may also arise due to linguistic problems not only in court in connection with oral interpretation but also out of court, for instance in connection with the translation of relevant documents. Furthermore, a person who is preparing to go to court may need to address his counsel through an interpreter while preparing his case.

While most legal systems attempt to provide for interpretation, free or otherwise, for persons without a sufficient knowledge of the language of the court, this is not an invariable rule. Official provision of aid is less automatic in civil and administrative, than in criminal, cases; and although, in criminal proceedings, the great majority of legal systems make some provisions for interpretation for the benefit of those without a sufficient command of the language or languages used in court and for assistance to those who are handicapped in speech or hearing, and provide such aid free (even if no legal requirement of such aid exists the courts nearly always make ad hoc arrangements in criminal proceedings), in several countries the accused may be condemned to pay the cost of interpretation if he is found guilty. In Madagascar, if the condemned person does not have the means to pay such cost, he is imprisoned for a debt after his sentence runs out.

Despite availability of legal interpretation for the speech and hearing impaired, few interpreters are properly trained to fully represent their clients. If an interpreter for a deaf individual fails to adequately relate her testimony, she has no means of recognizing fault in the interpretation and her chances for a fair trial are minimal. The hearing and speech impaired may be further burdened by additional legal costs, as such interpretation often renders the judicial process twice as long.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 10: Reduced InequalityGOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and ProductionGOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST