The Upper Tribunal gives guidance on the proper role of Tribunal interpreters

Thursday 21 November 2019

Emma Fitzsimons of Garden Court acted for the Appellant in the Upper Tribunal, and Sophie Caseley of Garden Court acted for the Appellant in the First-tier Tribunal. They were instructed by Julie Brauer of Sutovic and Hartigan Solicitors. 

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In this asylum appeal before the First-tier Tribunal, the issue of the interpretation provided by the Tribunal’s interpreter was raised as an issue by both the Appellant and the interpreter attending from the instructing solicitor. The latter was funded by the Legal Aid Agency to attend so that the Appellant, a former unaccompanied asylum-seeking child, could have a conference with her barrister at court.  

The issue was raised with the Tribunal Judge, who refused to adjourn, despite applications from counsel. Following the Tribunal hearing, the Tribunal interpreter approached counsel outside the court building and made comments that undermined their independence and impartiality. They had clearly formed an adverse view of the Appellant, and even doubted that the events described could happen in the country of origin. 

Counsel duly prepared a witness statement that was sent for the Tribunal Judge’s attention. However, it appeared that this evidence never reached the particular Judge. The appeal was dismissed by the First-tier Tribunal, on the basis of adverse credibility.

On appeal, before the President Mr Justice Lane and UTJ Rimmingon, the Upper Tribunal accepted that there had been an error of law and that this appeal would need to be remitted to the First-tier Tribunal for a fresh hearing.

In the decision, the Upper Tribunal noted that if the ‘standard of interpretation’ is such that it raises a genuine concern that needs investigation, the case is likely to require a fresh hearing before a different Judge and with a different interpreter.

The full judgment is available here: TS (Interpreters) [2019] UKUT 352

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