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Institute challenges Lord Chief Justice on interpreting technology for court cases

ITI has countered assertions by the Lord Chief Justice at the Sir Henry Brooke Annual Lecture that technology developments will mean court interpreters are no longer required "within a few years".

Sarah Griffin-MasonIn an open letter to Lord Burnett, the Institute cited the most recent scientific evidence showing that machine interpreting is nowhere near ready to substitute for human interpreters.

Unless significant time and resource were put into testing, developing and trialling systems for use in legal cases, there would be miscarriages of justice, increased cost to the taxpayer and disadvantage to those without English proficiency in their dealings with the legal system.

The Institute also highlighted the current unsatisfactory working conditions for interpreters: "The systems for hiring, briefing, and working with court interpreters are overdue for improvement. As you will know, the current contract has been controversial among the existing cadre of court interpreters, who feel that their views and experience have not been taken into account."

Commenting on the Institute’s response, ITI Chair Sarah Griffin-Mason said: “At the Institute we regularly hear about instances, in this country and overseas, in which legal cases have been delayed, complicated or compromised because of poor quality language services. There is no situation in which inaccuracy or imprecision is less acceptable – and this includes interviews and statement taking, as well as court proceedings themselves. And in light of current limitations of interpreting technology, achieving a quality service with human interpreters has to be the number one priority."

The ITI Chair has extended an invitation to the Lord Chief Justice to come and meet ITI legal interpreter members to hear their views on how to increase efficiency in the hiring and management of interpreters in the justice system.

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