Annexure 4 – Four-part test for determining need for an interpreter

A4.1 – Part 1: Ask the party or witness about an interpreter

Explain the role of an interpreter and ask the party or witness, using an open question (then avoid reframing as a yes or no question if there is no response).

What do you think about asking an interpreter to help us? Or What do you want to do?

If the party indicates they would like an interpreter, stop the discussion and arrange for an interpreter to be present.

If the party has difficulty answering this question, stop the discussion and arrange for an interpreter to be present.

If the party indicates they do not want an interpreter, proceed to step 2.

A4.2 – Part 2: Assessing speaking ability – ask questions that require a narrative response

Ask the party to speak to you in narrative (story) form by asking open-ended background questions. Avoid yes or no questions or questions that can be answered with one or two words.

Tell me about…
What do you think will happen if…?

For example, ‘Tell me about any jobs or training that you have had’, or questions related to the topic at hand, such as ‘Tell me everything that happened after the police arrived’.

Avoid questions that can be answered with one or two words, for example ‘How long have you been staying in Alice Springs?’.

Include at least one question that seeks the party’s thoughts or opinions, for example ‘What do you think will happen to your children if you go to jail?’

If the party does not respond with anything more than a few words to the first few questions, make several further attempts at eliciting a longer response.

If unsuccessful then it is likely the party cannot express themself adequately or confidently in English. Stop the interview and arrange for an interpreter to be present.

If the party is able to give satisfactory or somewhat satisfactory responses, proceed to step 3.

A4.3 – Part 3: Assessing comprehension and speaking relevant to the context

Write down two sets of two medium length sentences, using the style and some of the terms that the party or witness will encounter in the court. Read each set to the party or witness and ask them to explain back to you what you just said.

Present the task in this way “I need to tell you something important now, and then I will ask you to tell that story back to me. This way I can check that we understand each other. Are you ready?”

Example 1: Any suspect, defendant, victim or witness can ask for an interpreter, so that they can tell their story using their own language, and to make sure they understand everything people say. Okay, now tell me back what I just said to you?

Example 2: When a person is guilty, it means that a judge or jury decided that they broke the law. In court, ‘guilty’ has a different meaning from when people use the word outside of court. In court, ‘guilty’ does not mean that a person feels guilty. Guilty means that the person broke the law. A judge can say that a defendant is guilty, even when the defendant does not feel guilty. Can you tell me back what I said to you?

Example 3: Bail is the law that decides if a defendant will wait in jail or if he will wait out of jail while waiting to come back to court. When a defendant gets bail, they will wait outside of jail for their court case. Bail is like this: The police or judge decide to let the defendant out of jail to wait for their court case. The defendant promises to come back to court at the right time for the court case, and to obey any other rules that are in the bail conditions. When a defendant does not get bail, they will wait in jail for their court case. Can you tell me back what I said to you?

Example 4: An oath is a promise. When a witness tells their story (gives evidence) in Court they must promise to tell the true story. To show that they will keep that promise, the witness might promise God that they will tell the true story in court. The witness will put their hand on a Bible when they promises to tell the true story. When they do that, their promise is called an oath. When a witness lies after they speak an oath, they are breaking the law and maybe the judge will punish them. Okay, now tell me back what I just said to you?

Example 5: An order is a law-paper that a judge writes for a person. There are rules (conditions) on the order that the person must obey. More information: The person will sign their name on that paper and that means they agrees that they will obey the rules on the order. When a person does not obey an order from a judge, the person will go back to court and the judge might punish that person or give them a different order. In a sentencing order, the judge writes down all the rules the offender must obey as part of their punishment (sentence). There are other orders, like Bail Orders and Domestic Violence Orders. Can you tell me back what I said to you?

A4.4 – Part 4: Assessing communication

Assess the party’s response, and any other communication you have already had with them.

Likely to need an interpreterLess likely to need an interpreter
Articulating backThe person has difficulty articulating back what you said to them.The person is able to articulate meaningfully most of what you said to them, using their own words.
Short or long answersThe person only speaks in short sentences (4-5 words or less) or mainly gives one-word answers.The person speaks in full sentences of 6-7 words or more, and elaborates answers to questions.
Agrees or disagreesThe person consistently agrees with your questions or propositions you put to them.The person is easily able to disagree and articulate a different point of view.
Inappropriate responsesThe person frequently responds inappropriately to your comments or question (e.g. responding with “yes” to “what” or “where” questions).The person consistently responds meaningfully and appropriately to questions and comments.
Unsure of meaningYou are sometimes mystified as to what exactly the person is telling you even when the words and grammar they are using are clear to you.You can process the person’s speech clearly and understand what it is they are telling you.
ContradictionsThe person appears to contradict themselves, and is unaware of the apparent contradictions.The person does not contradict themselves, or if they do, they are aware of and can address the contradiction.
Uses new vocabularyThe person does not add significant amounts of new vocabulary to the conversation. They rely on using the words or phrases that you have previously said to them.The person frequently adds new vocabulary to the conversation.
Good grammarThe person does not use English grammatically. E.g. mixes up pronouns (“he” instead of “she”); uses the past tense incorrectly (“they look at me”).The person uses English grammatically.
Repeating and simplifyingYou find yourself frequently needing to restate and simplify your utterances.You can talk easily in a normal manner.

If two or more of the points in the ‘likely to need an interpreter’ column apply to the party or witness, it is advisable to work with an interpreter.