Justice threatened by bad translation

Courts’ use of uneducated interpreters may result in wrong verdicts

Unskilled interpreters offered to foreigners in legal matters are often so incompetent that they put the legal rights of the accused at risk, Politiken reports.

“I’ve found it indefensible almost every time there’s been a Danish-Turkish interpretation,” Erbil Kaya, a defence lawyer, told Politiken. “The judicial system has to take action.”

A shortage of professional interpreters of particularly Arabic, Turkish, Somali and Farsi means  these languages are often being translated by uneducated interpreters who lack the necessary qualifications to handle legal affairs.

Grams become kilos
Henrik Stagehorn, the head of the National Defence Lawyers Association, warned that important details getting lost in translation may result in judges passing wrong verdicts.

He mentioned a case in which a client was accused of smuggling 100 kilos of amphetamine instead of 100 grams, because the interpreter had made a mistake.

The Justice Ministry refused to comment but said a committee would take up the issue later in 2014.