Many police stations, prisons and courthouses in England Wales are equipped with video conferencing facilities. These video conferencing facilities are used for a variety of reasons to assist legal representatives with their work. Video conferencing is also used to introduce an interpreter to an interaction. The interpreter could be stationed alone in another police station while a suspect and police officer are located together in a different police station. Alternatively, an interpreter could be located with a legal representative and the detainee in another location, such as a prison. See Braun & Taylor 2013 for a breakdown of configurations.
When the police look to use an interpreter via video conferencing facilities to communicate with a suspect, this must be managed in accordance with the PACE – Police And Criminal Evidence (1984) guidelines. PACE guidelines are only concerned with interviewing and arresting a suspect. PACE guidelines do not apply to witnesses or victims. Previously the PACE guidelines stipulated specific locations where an interpreter can join via video conferencing, e.g. a police station, prison or courthouse. On the 22nd of November 2016 MPs of the British parliament discussed revisions to the PACE (1984) guidelines permitting the use of interpreting services from alternative locations (see link for the full English transcript). From this alternative location the interpreter would join the interaction and provide their service. These changes to PACE guidelines come into effect this week. The proposal to change the PACE guidelines came from Barroness William’s of Trafford (The Minister of State, Home Department), following a public consultation on the PACE (1984) guidelines. These changes will only affect how police officers in England and Wales consider the use of video-conferencing when interviewing or arresting a suspect.
If a suspect risks being detained longer because of the time it takes to locate an interpreter, then the prospect of a video interpreter from an alternative location could be of real benefit. However, there are still a number of concerns that remain unclear.
- What is meant by ‘remote location’? Will the remote location be an ISO approved call centre or an interpreter’s private facility?
- Will there be vetting and approval processes to ensure the remote service is secure and set in a private location?
- How these changes will impact on the use of video-conferencing facilities with witnesses and victims?
- Providers of interpreting services are likely to favor deployment by video because it is cheaper and easier. Yet, research consistently shows a preference for an onsite interpreter from all stakeholders (Locatis et al. 2010; Moser-Mercer 2003, Mouzourakis 1996, 2006; Turner et al 2016). This is because of the visual and social cues like gestures, and other non-verbal aspects of communication. Therefore, how can we be sure the rights of the individual are not being compromised when arrested or interviewed?
- Will attending to technology distract from the interview process?
- What involvement will the public have in guiding the government’s decisions?
In this current climate where profit generation has eroded the working conditions of interpreters, particularly in the legal field, how can we be sure that quality and the rights of the individual to a fair process comes first? In my previous posting a deaf person who requested the assistance of an interpreter for a pre-planned interview was flatly declined by a police officer (see first point contact). The reason given was “we don’t have enough resources”. Clearly, the use and need of interpreters on-site is still not fully understood by police officers. Therefore, how can we be sure a future with the intention of being a “standby service” via video link will be appropriately managed by interpreter providers and police officers? Furthermore, how can we be sure the video provider is stationed in a secure and private space?
Braun, S., & Taylor, J. (2013). Videoconference and remote interpreting in legal proceedings. Intersentia.
Locatis, C., Williamson, D., Gould-Kabler, C., Zone-Smith, L., Detzler, I., Roberson, J., Maisiak, R. and Ackerman, M. (2010) Comparing in-person, video, and telephonic medical interpretation. Journal of General Internal Medicine 25 (4) 345-50.
Moser-Mercer, B. (2003) Remote interpreting: assessment of human factors and performance parameters. Communicate! Summer 2003. http://aiic.net/ViewPage.cfm?page_id=1125 (accessed 24/01/2014).
Mouzourakis, P. (1996) Videoconferencing: techniques and challenges. Interpreting 1 (1), 21-38.
Mouzourakis, P. (2006) Remote interpreting: a technical perspective on recent experiments. Interpreting 8 (1), 45-66.
Turner, G. H., Napier, J., Skinner, R., & Wheatley, M. (2016). Telecommunication relay services as a tool for deaf political participation and citizenship. Information, Communication & Society, 1-18.
Other useful resources: