Annexure 6 – Interpreting in matters where a party or the interpreter appears via audio-visual link (AVL), or where the entire hearing takes place via AVL
Adapted in part from the Northern Territory Magistrates Court, Interpreter Protocols, 2019, page 20, and updated in 2021 to reflect increased use of AVL by courts and tribunals.
A6.1 – Interpreting for a party who appears via audio-visual link (AVL) in an otherwise face- to-face hearing:
- Where the matter is listed for a short mention or directions hearing, such as an application for an adjournment, the interpreter will ordinarily be present and interpret from the hearing room or via the interpreter’s own technology from a remote location, rather than being present with the party (including a defendant in a criminal proceeding who is in a correctional facility.
- In cases where the matter is longer or more complex, it is preferable that the interpreter be physically present with the party, using the same AV connection.
- Where the party is represented, and the interpreter is arranged by the party’s legal representative, the relevant legal practitioner should discuss the likely length and complexity of the matter with the interpreter prior to the day of the interpreting assignment to determine whether the interpreter will interpret from the hearing room, with the party on the same AV connection, or via their own technology.
- All participants in any remote interpreting situation should wear adequate headphones with a microphone.
A6.2 – Interpreting for a witness who gives evidence via AVL in an otherwise face-to-face hearing:
- Ordinarily, the interpreter should be located with the witness when the witness gives evidence via AVL. If this is not possible, the principles in A6.1 are applicable.
A6.3 – Interpreting when the interpreter is present with a party off-site in an otherwise face-to-face hearing:
- Prior to the matter commencing, court or tribunal staff should ensure that the interpreter is able to see all people in the hearing who will speak. The camera should be set up so that the interpreter can see the judicial officer, other parties, and any legal practitioners on screen at the same time.
- Prior to the matter commencing, court or tribunal staff should ensure that the interpreter is able to hear people speaking from each location in the hearing room where speech will occur.
- The screen in the hearing room showing the interpreter and the witness or party should be visible to the judicial officer and legal practitioners, in order for the interpreter to interrupt and seek clarification as needed.
- When working with an Auslan or Sign Language interpreter, the interpreter may provide additional guidance on how to position the camera.
- The volume of the AVL in the hearing room should be sufficiently loud so that all parties can hear the interpreter when the interpreter interrupts to seek clarification. In addition, where possible, all speakers in the hearing room should speak into a microphone that is connected to the AVL feed, so that the interpreter can hear everything that is being said properly and to minimise the need for the interpreter to interrupt for clarification about what was said.
- All participants in the courtroom/tribunal should speak into a microphone that is connected to the AVL feed so that the interpreter can adequately hear and interpret simultaneously to the limited English proficiency speaking party.
- The interpreter should wear headphones and speak into a microphone that is connected to the AVL feed.
- If a briefing has not previously occurred, the legal practitioner or, if the court or tribunal has engaged the interpreter, the judicial officer, should ensure that the interpreter receives a briefing as to the general nature of the proceeding and the interpreter’s role prior to the matter commencing.
- If any documents will be read onto the record or shown to a witness, it is desirable that copies of these documents have been provided to the interpreter prior to the matter commencing. If it not possible to provide these documents prior to the matter commencing, they should be shared with the interpreter via AVL or some other technology at the relevant time.
A6.4 – Interpreting when the interpreter is present in the hearing room and the party appears via AVL:
- Prior to the matter commencing, court or tribunal staff should ensure that the interpreter is given time to speak with the party or witness via AVL to ensure that the interpreter and the party or witness speak the same language and are able to communicate, and for the interpreter explain their role.
- The interpreter should be provided with a seat in front of a microphone in the hearing room. When interpreting for a witness, the interpreter will ordinarily sit in the witness box in the hearing room. When interpreting for a party, the interpreter will ordinarily sit next to the party’s legal representative, or otherwise at the bar table, provided that the interpreter has clear access to a microphone.
- Court or tribunal staff should ensure that the interpreter has an unobstructed view of a screen that clearly shows the face of the party or witness.
- If the hearing room is equipped with a hearing loop, this should be offered to the interpreter. This will often provide better sound quality to the interpreter for what the remotely located witness is saying rather than relying on the sound produced by the AVL equipment. The remotely located witness should endeavour to speak directly into a microphone to ensure the interpreter can properly hear and understand everything that is said.
- When working with an Auslan or Sign Language interpreter, the interpreter may provide guidance on how to position the camera. When the party or witness is deaf or hard of hearing, the interpreter must have a clear unobstructed view of the upper body, face, and hands. Some settings are not yet suitable for remote signed language interpreting,157 due to the technical limitations of AV cameras or monitors at either site. The system should be tested beforehand whenever an interpreter is not able to be present with the deaf defendant/witness to ensure it will function appropriately.
- Unless a party or witness requests otherwise, the camera should be set up so that the party or witness sees the entire hearing room, rather than just seeing the interpreter.
- At the start of a matter, the judicial officer should confirm, through the interpreter, that the party or witness is able to hear and understand the interpreter via the AVL.
- In cases where the interpreter is present in the hearing room, simultaneous interpreting may be difficult or impossible without the adequate equipment, as the party or witness will hear two languages simultaneously through the AVL. For simultaneous interpreting, specialist interpreting platforms are recommended. Microsoft Teams can be used with a plug-in to the Zoom interpreting facility. This way, participants will hear only the language that they understand, without interference from the other language.
- As the interpreter will not be present with the party, the court or tribunal registry should determine if the AVL allows for simultaneous interpretation. In any event, the court or tribunal registry should ensure that the proceeding is listed for a period of time that is sufficient with regard to the additional time likely to be required to enable the party to fully participate in the hearing with assistance of the interpreter.
A6.5 – Interpreting when the entire hearing takes place via audio-visual link (AVL)
- The court or tribunal registry should determine if the AVL in use allows for simultaneous interpretation and, in any event, ensure that the proceeding is listed for a period of time that is sufficient having regard to the additional time likely to be required to enable the party to fully participate in the hearing with the assistance of the interpreter. If simultaneous interpreting is not possible, the proceedings will need to be interpreted in the consecutive mode, which will increase the duration of the proceedings by a factor of at least 2.5.
- The judicial officer should ensure that the interpreter is given enough time to interpret what is being said and that they have an opportunity to raise any issues and ask any questions they may have.
- The interpreter should ensure that they join the AVL not less than 5 minutes prior to the hearing time and, if the interpreter is only booked for a particular period and is unable to extend that period should that be required, this is brought to the attention of the judicial officer at the start of the hearing or as soon as it becomes apparent in the course of the hearing.
- The judicial officer or court or tribunal registry should ensure that all parties, including the interpreter, can see and hear all other parties in the hearing.
- Interpreting remotely can lead to higher levels of fatigue. Interpreters may require more frequent breaks when interpreting remotely.
- Where possible, videoconferencing technology with features that best facilitate interpreting, such as remote simultaneous interpreting platforms, should be the preferred platforms for hearings that must take place wholly via videoconference.