Recommended Standards for Judicial Officers
Standard 13 – Judicial officers’ duties
All judicial officers should apply the Model Rules for working with interpreters as enacted in their jurisdiction and endeavour to give effect to the Standards.
Standard 14 – Plain English
Judicial officers should use their best endeavours to use plain English to communicate clearly and articulately during the proceedings.
Standard 15 – Training of judicial officers for working with interpreters
Judicial officers should undertake training on assessing the need for interpreters and working with interpreters in accordance with these Standards and the Model Rules as enacted in their jurisdiction.
Standard 16 – Assessing the need for an interpreter
The fundamental duty of the judicial officer is to ensure that proceedings are conducted fairly and in accordance with the applicable principles of procedural fairness, including by ensuring an interpreter is available to persons of limited English proficiency.
To ensure that criminal proceedings are conducted fairly and that there is no miscarriage of justice, courts should ensure that an interpreter is provided to an accused of limited English proficiency.
Judicial officers should satisfy themselves as to whether a party or witness requires an interpreter in accordance with the four-part test for determining the need for an interpreter as outlined in Annexure 4.
Standard 17 – Proceedings with an interpreter
Judicial officers should ensure that the interpreter has been provided with appropriate working conditions, as outlined in Standard 9.
In making directions as to the conduct of proceedings, judicial officers should consider whether and to what extent interpreters should be briefed on the nature of a matter prior to the commencement of proceedings and, if so, give consideration as to the time which an interpreter may reasonably require to become familiar with the briefing material. Briefing may include the provision of materials which may otherwise have required sight translation, subject to Standard 26.
Interpreters should be a afforded reasonable time to familiarise themselves with materials that are relevant for the process of interpretation in the particular case.
Except where a Qualified Interpreter has been engaged, judicial officers should ascertain the competence of an interpreter by reference to their certification status, qualifications and court experience, as well as whether they are members of AUSIT, ASLIA or other recognised State or Territory based association requiring adherence to a code of ethics and/or standards. If the judicial officer is concerned about any of these matters, they may raise this with the parties to ascertain whether another interpreter is available, and should consider adjourning the proceedings until one is available.
At the start of proceedings, and before an interpreter commences interpreting, judicial officers should introduce the interpreter and explain their role as an officer of the court or tribunal.
Judicial officers should confirm that the interpreter has acknowledged the Court Interpreters Code of Conduct and understands their duties as an officer of the court or tribunal.
Judicial officers should inform the interpreter to alert the court or tribunal, and if necessary to interrupt, if the interpreter:
- becomes aware that they may have a conflict of interest in the proceedings;
- cannot interpret the question or answer for any reason;
- did not accurately hear what was said;
- needs to correct an error;
- needs to consult a dictionary or other reference material;
- needs a concept or term explained;
- is unable to keep up with the evidence; or
- needs a break.
Judicial officers may become aware that an interpreter has a conflict of interest in the proceedings. In such cases, judicial officers should permit the interpreter to withdraw from the proceedings if necessary and adjourn the proceedings until another interpreter can be found, or consider another appropriate strategy to address the conflict.
Judicial officers should speak at a speed and with appropriate pauses so as to facilitate the discharge by the interpreter of their duty to interpret.