In Japan, a case of inadequate interpretation service in court has led to a verdict which might be considered incorrect or impartial. Language experts complain about Japan’s lack of accreditation system for court interpreters after the lay judges in the trial remarked on the poor interpretation of the defendant’s words.
Some examples of the mistakes that were noticed were the complete omission of parts of the conversation between the judges and the prosecutor, while others were related to the interpreter’s inability to understand the American minor’s accent. Also, subtleties like the tone the interpreter used or the choice of words proved to have affected the judges’ decisions.
The trial was over the murder of Nicola Furlong, an Irish exchange student in Tokyo, which resulted in a US citizen being sentenced to five to ten years in prison. Due to the judges’ lack of knowledge of languages and the inability to detect any language-related problems in real-time during the trial, the outcome was thick with inconsistencies.
Another fact that made the problem of misinterpretation bigger is the lay judge system, which was introduced in Japan in 2009. Since then, oral testimony has acquired a key role in opinion formation. With language being one of the main ways to understand both victims and accused, and the main means of communication with the lay judges, problems in the interpretation immediately and irreparably affected the judges thought process and conclusions.
Skilled Court Interpreters
It is imperative that interpreters should be able to prove their efficacy and appropriate language level before they are admitted in court. The level of skill in handling criminal cases interpretation should be of highest quality.