In The News

Danger Ahead: The Risks of Not Using Qualified Translators and Interpreters

23 Apr
  Jen McMillan, writing in the  Law Society Journal, explains the dangers for bilingual lawyers when they also seek to act as interpreters and/or translators. Reproduced with the kind permission of the Law Society Journal: LSJ, April 2019, Issue 54, p. 90. download pdf file.
12 Apr
  Gene Gibson freed as conviction for Broome manslaughter of Josh Warneke quashed (ABC News)
An Aboriginal man with cognitive impairment has walked free from jail after almost five years behind bars, with WA's highest court overturning his conviction for the bashing death of Josh Warneke outside Broome. ...
22 Nov
  ANU: Critical case analysis of adverse events associated with failure to use interpreters for non-English speaking patients. download pdf file.
29 Aug
  Miranda Warnings - State Must Prove Spanish Miranda Warnings Were Understood. Extracts:
The court concludes that the state failed to meet its burden of proof that defendant received adequate Miranda warnings and that the admission of defendant's statements was not harmless. Police responded to a domestic violence call and arrested defendant. One of the officers knew that defendant's relative, Garcia, lived nearby and had previously worked with the police department as an interpreter. The officer called Garcia. Garcia read to defendant the Miranda warnings on the officer's prepared card and told the officers that defendant said that he understood the warnings. During the suppression hearing, the state did not call Garcia or introduce the prepared Miranda card. The state called an officer who admitted that he did not know what Garcia had translated or whether Garcia was a certified interpreter. The court holds that the record is insufficient to support a finding that the Miranda concepts that Garcia translated were constitutionally adequate. The court further holds that the statements were not harmless because they impacted defendant's credibility at trial. State v. Casarez-Hernandez, 280 Or App 312 (2016) (De Muniz, S.J.).
9 Aug
  ABC News: Lost in translation: Chinese tourist mistaken for asylum seeker in Germany
15 Jun
  Biggs v George. Extracts:
In November 2009 Ms Sandra George, a Macedonian-speaker with a poor grasp of English, underwent an operation to remove an acoustic neuroma, a tumour on the sheath of an acoustic nerve. The operation was performed following consultations in which Ms George had been assisted by interpreters. On the first two occasions, held at a clinic run by St Vincent’s Hospital in Moree where Ms George lived, a friend translated for her. On the latter two occasions held at St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, she was provided with an accredited interpreter. During the course of the operation an adjoining facial nerve was severed which resulted in her suffering from facial palsy.
In 2012 Ms George commenced proceedings in the District Court claiming damages for negligence against the surgeon, Dr Nigel Biggs, and St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney Ltd, for vicarious liability of its medical staff. Her allegations of negligence were directed at the way the operation was carried out, and for an alleged failure to warn her of the risk of damage to the facial nerve: it not being in dispute that the principal operation carried a significant risk of the injury which eventuated. The District Court dismissed the complaint of intra-operative negligence, but upheld the allegation of failure to warn, awarding Ms George $331,000 in damages. The District Court said that the duty of a medical practitioner was not just to explain the procedure and risks in a way that the patient could understand, but to ensure that the patient did in fact understand what was communicated and provided a detailed list of steps a medical practitioner should follow in such a circumstance when using an interpreter.
This decision was appealed. The Court of Appeal upheld the appeal and set aside the judgment in favour of Ms George. There were findings relating to causation and reasonable expert costs, however the most significant aspect for practitioners is the statement of the duty to warn of risks to non-English speaking patients. The decision rejected the suggestion a doctor must take special steps to ensure a patient understands, or that the patient understands an interpreter. The Court of Appeal said that a correct statement of the content of the duty of care owed by a medical practitioner to a patient with a language barrier, is that medical practitioners take reasonable care to ensure that the material risks attending a surgical procedure are conveyed, and that the practitioners satisfy themselves that the substance of the information has been conveyed and been understood.
28 Nov
  Calls for family violence interpreters to receive training (SBS). Migrant advocates are calling for specialised training of interpreters for family violence victims as cases emerge of those who fail to remain impartial in translating.
5 Nov
  Report on Operation AvieMore: Major Crime Squad Investigation into the Unlawful Killing of Mr Joshua Warneke.pdf  
Western Australian Police officers have often failed to comply with the Criminal Investigation Act 2006 (CI Act) and their own Police Manual when interviewing suspects.
27 Sep
  WA Chief Justice Wayne Martin fears language barriers putting innocent people behind bars. Woman calling for inquest into son's death fears man who confessed to murder without interpreter present is innocent. WA Chief Justice cites link between access to interpreters and number of Aboriginal people in jail. Kimberley Interpreting Service says English words often misinterpreted in Aboriginal context.
16 Jun
  Man walks free after police prosecutors fail to find interpreter for assault 'victim'  
30 May
  Five police officers stood aside over conduct while investigating death of Broome man Joshua Warneke (ABC): Suspect denied basic legal rights such as the use of an interpreter, and thus his admissions to police were not voluntary.
24 Feb
  George v. Biggs. NSW District Court awards damages to patient after a "friend"was interpreting for the patient and consent for operation was given on that basis. Ruling (.doc file).


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