PHILIPSBURG — There is a shortage of court interpreters, especially in the Spanish language, Chief Prosecutor Hieke Buist said last week during the installation of Judge Gert Jan Wouters and the reinstallation of judges Ineke Eskes and Thea Lautenbach.
“A suspect, but also the victims and relatives of the victim, should be heard in their mother tongue in the courtroom,” Buist sad. “If that is a different language than the language of the law system the court shall and will provide for an interpreter.”
There is of course more to it and Buist put her finger on it: “If even the verdict is not written in the language you speak at home, how do you feel about yourself and the law system at that moment?”
Buist wondered aloud whether the language used in the courtroom creates the necessary connection between law and order and society. “In the words of Nelson Mandela: If you talk to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, it goes to his heart.”
Buist said that recently court sessions had to be cancelled because there was no interpreter available. “This was just the interpreter for the suspect; we don’t even arrange them for the victims and relatives. We need more interpreters.”
The court system language is Dutch and often everybody speaks Dutch or English. “Only the suspect has an interpreter. Victims and relatives cannot understand what is going on.”
The Chief Prosecutor suggested investigating whether it is possible to install a good audio system that will make translations heard by everyone present in the courtroom.
“However, behavior adjustments of the judge, prosecutor and lawyer are necessary. The interpreter cannot translate simultaneously anymore, so we have to slow down the way we speak. Give room to the interpreter. And maybe a translation of the written verdict, or at least of the motivation of the verdict, might be a possibility as well?”