- Google/Business Insider
A British court had to rely on Google Translate to communicate with a defendant who couldn’t speak English.
Officials at Teesside Magistrates’ Court failed to book an interpreter for Mandarin speaker Xiu Ping Yang at a hearing this week, according to the Law Gazette.
After the court’s clerk realised that they had no reliable way to communicate with her, they resorted to asking around in court to see whether anybody else could help.
Joan Smith, a barrister who happened to be in court, eventually decided to download the Google Translate app to her phone and managed to explain to Yang what was happening.
Smith told the Law Gazette: “No-one had phones on them and the council said they didn’t know of anyone who could interpret.
“So I downloaded the Google Translate app and tried to explain what was happening. It worked eventually but it could have been a long day.”
Yang was in court to answer claims from Redcar & Cleveland Council that her Chinese takeaway business, the Golden Wok in Eston, North Yorkshire, had breached food hygiene standards.
But when it became clear there was no adequate way to communicate with her, the hearing was adjourned until next month.
Business Insider has asked the courts service why it did not provide an interpreter but has yet to receive a response. Interpretation services in the courts have been repeatedly criticised since they were privatised by the government in 2012.
Campaigners have warned that since the change, the quality of interpreting has got worse and delays more frequent. In 2012, Labour justice spokesman Andy Slaughter said the consequences include “confusion and delay in the courts, the potential for serious miscarriages of justice, huge wasted costs, and risks to public safety.”
Figures released last year by the Ministry of Justice showed that 2,600 court cases were delayed because of interpretation failures.