LCQ9: Court interpretation service

     Following is a question by the Hon Raymond Ho and a written reply by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (February 8):


     Last year, a murder case in which the defendant had been convicted was ordered to be re-tried due to an error in interpretation made by the court interpreter concerned.  Regarding court interpretation service, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the entry qualifications and the tests required to be passed for appointment of court interpreters; whether such standards are also applicable to court interpreters in languages other than Chinese and English or dialects other than Cantonese;

(b) whether a fallback mechanism is in place in the existing trial process to rectify errors in interpretation that are not immediately noted in the trials so as to prevent the impartiality of trials from being prejudiced; and

(c) how it ensures that when court interpreters in non-mainstream languages or dialects are required in court proceedings but no eligible interpreter is available, the trials are conducted in an impartial manner?



     The Administration has consulted the Judiciary on the question and has received the following information íV

(a) There are currently two broad categories of court interpreters providing interpretation service in court.  They include full-time Court Interpreters providing interpretation in Chinese and English, and part-time interpreters providing interpretation in foreign languages (other than Chinese and English) and Chinese dialects (other than Cantonese).  The qualifications for court interpreters are as follows -

Full-time Court Interpreters

     The entry requirements of the basic rank of the Court Interpreter Grade, i.e. Court Interpreter II, include the following -

(i) holding a degree from a university in Hong Kong, or equivalent;
(ii) attaining "Level 2" results in the two language papers (Use of Chinese and Use of English) in the Common Recruitment Examination, or equivalent;
(iii) attaining a pass in the Aptitude Test in the Common Recruitment Examination; and
(iv) being fluent in spoken Chinese (Cantonese and preferably in Putonghua as well) and spoken English.

     Candidates are also required to pass a translation test and an interpreting test.

Part-time interpreters

(i) to qualify as a part-time interpreter for a foreign language, in addition to proficiency in the foreign language concerned, an applicant should possess a recognized university degree or an equivalent academic qualification and be proficient in either English or Chinese;
(ii) as for Chinese dialects, an applicant for a part-time interpreter is required to have attained a secondary level education and be proficient in the dialect required and in Cantonese;
(iii) all suitable applicants for appointment as part-time interpreters are required to take written and oral entrance tests.

(b) When the accuracy of any translation made during a trial is disputed, it can be drawn to the attention of the trial judge during that trial.  If the trial is over, an application can be made to the court for a transcript or an audio record of proceedings to make the necessary checking.  To uphold the principle of judicial independence, any judicial decision can only be subject to review or appeal under the judicial system in accordance with the law.

(c) As a matter of practice, the court will normally stand down that part of the proceedings requiring the interpretation service in question and proceed with the rest of the trial first pending the availability of a qualified interpreter.  Where that course is impossible or cannot be done without causing injustice to either party, the court will adjourn the trial until a qualified interpreter is available.  The Judiciary Administration would do its utmost to find, within the time available, a suitable interpreter, including approaching the Consulate concerned, the tertiary institutions and other relevant organizations.

Ends/Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Issued at HKT 17:16