Why Professional Translation Services are Necessary in Court.
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Translation Mistakes in Court: Why Professional Translation Services are Necessary

Imagine being wrongly accused and found guilty of a crime you didn’t commit because of a legal error. What if that error was simply a mix-up between languages and a lack of professional translation services. Well, this is the case for numerous trials around the world. Particularly when the accused party isn’t given the opportunity to access interpreter services. Therefore, they are not given the chance to express themselves and explain things to the court in their native language. 

Here at Absolute Translations – one of the UK’s leading providers of legal translation, we understand the importance of utilising professional translation services as well as interpreters in court. In order to show what can happen when they are not accessed, we have listed three good examples of court cases affected by mis-interpretation.


1. Confusing “Traffic Violation” for Rape.

In Virginia, a Spanish man was accused of running a red light and taken to court. However, during his hearing, the state interpreter told the man there was allegations against him for a “violación” – which translates to “rape” in Spanish. Instead, the translator should have used the word “infracción” instead. The man then had to defend himself against the rape charge but admitted to the traffic offence. This highlights the importance of using a professional interpreter in the court as the smallest of misinterpretations can cause bigger problems.

2. A Retrial in Arkansas

A new trial was requested by a judge when a state-appointed translator claimed the defendant was “not guilty” when they were actually guilty. The man from Arkansas received a 60 year sentence for “rape, attempted murder, aggravated residential burglary and aggravated assault.” He gave a statement of guilt but the statement was thrown out when the translation mistake occurred.

3. Tourist trapped in Thailand

There are plenty of first-hand accounts of people travelling to Asian countries and getting tricked by corrupt police. It often involves an officer who speaks in their native tongue while planting drugs on tourists and pretending it was the tourist who has them. This is often done to extort a measly $500 or $1,000 from the tourists. Without expert translation assistance, it will be tough to form a proper defence. Countries like the Philippines are starting to push the death penalty on drug offences, so not having a professional interpreter there can be difficult. 

It is clear from the above cases that professional translation services are needed in court. After all, when a language barrier exists, the use of a professional interpreter could be the difference between being wrongly accused or not. 

For more information about our legal translation services, get in touch with our team on 0333 577 0767.