Under the Administration of Justice (Language) Act (Ireland) 1737
Under the Administration of Justice (Language) Act (Ireland) 1737 all court proceedings in Northern Ireland, including any documentation relating to those proceedings, must be in English, except where an individual does not speak or understand English.
The rights to liberty and security and to a fair trial are fundamental human rights protected by the European Convention on Human Rights [ECHR]. They include the right to interpretation where needed. Article 6 of ECHR states that everyone who is charged with a criminal offence has the right to:
- be informed promptly in a language which they understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against them; and
- have the free assistance of an interpreter if they cannot understand or speak the language used in court
- The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 makes it unlawful for ‘service providers’, including the Courts and Tribunals Service, to treat disabled people less favourably than other people for a reason related to their disability. This includes people with a speech or hearing impairment
- Central Management Team are responsible for arranging Interpreters on foot of requests from Court and Tribunal Offices
Criminal Proceedings – Non English Speaking
In cases prosecuted by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) the cost of supplying an interpreter for defendants at first court appearances will be met by the PSNI. The cost of providing in-court interpretation for defendants at second and subsequent hearings will be jointly met by NICTS, the PPS and the Department of Justice (DoJ).
NICTS will arrange and pay for an interpreter to support a non-English speaking defendant in Criminal cases prosecuted by all other agencies (e.g. TV Licensing, Driver and Vehicle Licensing, Crown Solicitors Office in extradition cases)
In all cases, the prosecution and defence will be responsible for arranging and paying for interpreters for their own witnesses and consultation with defendants.
Criminal Proceedings – Deaf and Hearing Impaired
If a deaf or hearing impaired defendant requires the assistance of a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter, Irish Sign Language (ISL) or other Language Service Professional (LSP), the same arrangements as above will apply.
Other Proceedings – Non English Speaking
In relation to civil and family proceedings, when an action is privately funded, the party requiring the services of an interpreter must normally make the arrangements and meet the costs. NICTS will, however, arrange foreign language interpreters for non-English speaking parties in civil and family hearings in the following circumstances –
- in alleged domestic violence cases or cases involving children
- in committal cases where the individual whose liberty is in jeopardy does not understand or speak English
- In other civil and family cases, (including Tribunal Hearing) NICTS will arrange and fund an interpreter where the judge directs that an interpreter be arranged by the court – eg In cases where the party cannot understand the language of the court well enough to take part in the hearing and in cases where the party cannot get public funding and cannot afford to fund an interpreter privately
- For Coroners inquests, NICTS will arrange and meet the costs of supplying a foreign language interpreter whenever directed by the Coroner this may include persons not giving evidence for example a next of kin or other persons in the proceedings who do not understand English.
Other Proceedings – Deaf and Hearing Impaired
NICTS will also arrange and pay for interpreters in all civil, family, coroners, tribunal hearings and Enforcement of Judgment interviews/hearings for deaf and hearing impaired persons to ensure the fullest compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Where a person has multiple communication disabilities, such as deaf-blindness or speech and hearing disabilities, we will work with them to ensure that their interpretation needs are met as effectively as possible.
NICTS is committed to providing an efficient and effective in-court interpretation service to meet the needs of non-English speakers and deaf and hearing impaired court users.
If a document needs to be translated for the purposes of the court arrangements are in place to take this forward.
Telephone interpreting services are available at all public counters.
For more information please contact: 0300 200 7812