Ontario Criminal

Charter of Rights

Interpreter fully captured meaning of words conveyed to and by accused

Three accused charged with kidnapping, extortion and assault. Throughout trial, first and third accused used Punjabi interpreter and second accused used Tamil interpreter. On any given day of trial, two Punjabi and two Tamil interpreters provided interpretation to accused. Punjabi interpreters came into courtroom when Punjabi speaking witness testified. In that situation, jury was in position to hear questions and answers being interpreted into Punjabi language. Interpreter at issue was fully accredited. At end of day juror forwarded hand written note advising that translator had poor translation ability and requested to get another person. Accused brought application for mistrial. Application for mistrial was premature request and court preferred there to be audit of testimony by another interpreter instead and so ordered. After reviewing audited material, all three accused alleged breach of their s. 14 Charter rights and requested mistrial. Application dismissed. Guaranteed standard involved continuity, precision, impartiality, competency, and contemporaneousness. Translation at issue was not perfect. Often imperfections in translation related to immaterial concerns. There was almost nothing in transcript that indicated that meaning of what was being communicated by either witness or examiner was in any way distorted or altered; at least not in any meaningful way. Questions and answers clearly indicated that accused understood what was being said and examiner understood his responses. To extent that interpretations were not word-for-word accurate, meaning was accurate almost entirely throughout. When interpreter did not understand question, he asked for clarification and did this several times towards end: fact court believed may have influenced juror’s note. Overall, while court found that interpreter was not 100 per cent accurate, he nonetheless fully captured meaning of words conveyed to and by accused. There was no need or basis to conclude that full audit of other portions of trial was required. Juror had alerted court to potential problem. Court reviewed sufficient sample of interpretation and was satisfied that translator’s interpretation was sufficient and that he was performing his function competently. Counsel’s request that court audit other aspects of trial because there was danger that same translator was not interpreting properly for other witnesses was speculation.

R. v. Singh (Nov. 12, 2015, Ont. S.C.J., Coroza J., File No. CR-12-2328) 126 W.C.B. (2d) 102.

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