In my home office taking up far too much space is my personal J.P. lever arch folder in which I store everything about doing this job correctly; everything that is never mentioned at training sessions, pre court reviews or post court reviews. It contains the information that allows for confidence in dealing with those lawyers who still consider magistrates as muppets who are led by the nose by legal advisors. From POVEY to PORNOGRAPHY, from WASTED COSTS to WARRANTS OF ENTRY via Ministry of Transport Offence Codes AC10 to TT99 they`re all there but even so sometimes small incidents in court make me wonder just who is pulling the procedural strings for HMCTS. Such was the case earlier this week.
It all centred around a Latvian national. She was brought up from the cells having been in custody overnight for a s.4 offence. The interpreter who was actually smartly dressed and punctual entered the courtroom and made straight for the dock. â€œA moment; please go to the witness box to take the oath.â€ Our L/A turned to me and said that interpreters no longer take the oath and turned back to face the court. The interpreter was still standing outside the locked dock. â€œMr interpreter please tell the court your name and your languageâ€. The L/A turned to me in mild surprise but decided to remain silent. Once we had established Mr Latvian Language`s credentials the case proceeded to a guilty plea and sentence. Ms Latvian defendant was of previous good character even although she had been in the country with N.F.A. for three months. Having established that she had been in police cells overnight and pronounced fine, costs and surcharge we deemed her sentence as time served and ordered her release from the dock whereupon our L/A informed us that the â€œsystemâ€ could not allocate costs in such a case and could we change our order to â€œno costsâ€. I told her that some weeks previously in an almost identical situation (without an interpreter) the L/A on that occasion had asked us why we had not ordered costs to which I replied with the advice we had just been given. â€œNonsenseâ€, he had responded, â€œapply costs in the normal manner if that is your decisionâ€, which we of course proceeded so to do.
So for whatever reason my own court does not know whether it is coming or going over the question of costs being able to be allocated in a case of â€œtime deemed servedâ€ and somewhere deep down in the bowels of HMCTS somebody has decided that interpreters do not need to be identified, state their language or take an oath to faithfully interpret from said language to English and vice versa. For my part I will have no truck with anonymous people entering the dock. I will continue to insist that they identify themselves and their language from the floor of the court if not being sworn in from the witness box.