Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rude Judge

As part of my travels today I went to Snaresbrook Crown Court where three of my Clients were appearing for a plea and directions hearing. Out of these three Clients two did not speak English and required the services of an interpreter.

When the case was called on the interpreter was sworn in and before anything else was said the Judge said to defence counsel, "Very disappointing Mr. Bloggs." Mr. Bloggs replied, "Sorry your Honour?" Then the Judge asked if the Clients were UK residents. The Judge was told that the three Clients had all been UK residents for over 10 years. Then the Judge laid in to the Clients who did not speak English saying that it was very disappointing that they had come to and been in the UK for over 10 years and had not even made the effort to learn English, and that they had not made the effort to integrate within English society. At this point most of the jaws of people in the Court room had hit the floor as they could not believe what was being said.

The Judge fell short of making any racist remarks but clearly left everyone with the opinion that if anyone had failed to integrate with society it was probably the Judge. He did not take the time to understand that one of the Clients had such a poor education in their country of origin that they could not read or write in their native language. The Judge also failed to appreciate that the second defendant using the interpreter did speak some English, but had the interpreter not been present he would have undoubtedly been unable to follow the Court proceedings with phrases and words being banded around such as 'indictment', 'lie on file', or 'basis of plea'.

Isn't it good that all members of our judiciary are fair and impartial for every case and defendant that they deal with?

9 comments:

Marcin Tustin said...

Wouldn't this just give the defendants cause to appeal due apparent bias in the judge?

Gavin said...

It would give grounds to appeal as there is good case law on this issue of bias. My Clients position was different as it was a plea and directions hearing where a mixture of pleas were entered. As the case has been effectively dropped against the two Clients who do not speak English, and the other Client has pleaded guilty there are no grounds to appeal against this outrageous behaviour.

The Judge's remarks have not changed the path of the case - fortunately the case has not been reserved to the particular Judge when it returns to Court.

Anonymous said...

I'm inclined to agree with the judge. 10 years is plenty of time to learn to speak a language. When my ancestors came to England, they all learned to speak English one way or another despite having poor backgrounds and very little (if any) education.

You have a bit of a point as regards legal terms, but how many native English people fully understand these anyway?

Up to a point it is a personal matter if you choose to learn a language, but if you choose not to learn the language of the country you live in then you cannot expect that country to do anything to aid your understanding. If people had to pay for their own interpreters, you'd find they'll learn the language pretty quickly regardless of background.

Anonymous said...

I find it ironic that in ten years they couldnt be bothered to learn how to understand english, but had obviously found the time to get involved in crime!

My jaw would have dropped as finally a judge was making sense!

Anonymous said...

Indeed, the comment from the anon above strikes a cord with me also. I work in a profession (well, lets call it a job anyway...) where I have to deal with people who "claim" to have difficulty understanding the language after coming here for assylum. No matter who you are or how accomplished your education, you never stop learning! Whether it be in languages, or indeed crime! It's natural to try and shy away from punishment. I and many others see this day in, day out. The saving grace is that poeple who claim that they don't understand English are generally caught out when they get in the witness box.
"So Mr Assylum Seeker, the officer's evidence says that you were only living at that address temporarily", says the prosecutor.
"Yeah, well the home office move us round from time to time" says Mr A.S.
"Well then, how did the officer know to write that when you claim to be unable to understand a word of English?"
"Umm, err..." says Mr A.S...
It's still too easy (for the time being...) to be sceptical. And I'm afraid I think I'm right in thinking that way. I suspect the judge in this case would have already seen this and agrees with my thoughts... Mr Defence Solicitor, you are bias. More so than the people who's job it is to enforce the law...

Anonymous said...

It wasn't Judge Medawar (sp?), was it? A number of successful appeals have been broght against him on the basis of rudeness to counsel during trials...

Gavin said...

No, this was HHJ Winstanley.

I think that it was the case of R v Lashley where the appeal/s were successful.

Anonymous said...

People who take easily to a new language are often amazed at things like this, but some people simply have a huge problem learning a new language in adulthood, and if they have an opportunity to settle in a community where their native language is spoken they're quite likely to never get beyond a few basic phrases.

The other side of the coin, the English-speaking tourist who spends months in a country and never leaves an English-speaking enclave, is just as much a cliche and for many of the same reasons.

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