Federal Circuit Court Interpreter and Translator Policy
1.1 These guidelines have been prepared to ensure uniform access to interpreter services throughout the Federal Circuit Court of Australia.
1.2 The basic principle of access and equity is that no client of the Court should be disadvantaged in proceedings before the Court or in understanding the procedures and conduct of court business, because of a language barrier or hearing or speech impairment. The two-way process of communication and understanding between the client and the Court may require that the Court engages an interpreter, or on rare occasions a translator.
2. When to Use Interpreter Services
2.1 Attendance at Counter: Where a client at the counter appears to need assistance in understanding procedures or information, registries are encouraged to use the services of a staff member who is familiar with the client's first language. Where this alternative is not available or the client needs urgent assistance, registries may assist the client through the provision of an interpreter at court expense. It may be that initial contact with the interpreter can be made satisfactorily by telephone.
2.2 Attendance at dispute resolution: Where needed to meet the objective in paragraph 1.2 above, an interpreter should be authorised for dispute resolution events, including attendance with clients at community-based dispute resolution. Appointment letters should include a request for any client who may need interpreter assistance to contact the registry, with a friend if possible or through the Telephone Interpreter Service, to discuss their needs in advance of the event. It is not considered appropriate for a friend to interpret during counselling or dispute resolution, because the friend may not be independent from the dispute. The Federal Circuit Court's Dispute Resolution coordinator shall be responsible for arranging interpreters to attend community-based dispute resolution.
2.3 Undefended Divorce Proceedings: The assistance of a friend should be suggested and should be sufficient for these proceedings.
2.4 Defended Hearings: The registry manager or district registrar is to ensure where practicable that neither the client of the Court, nor the Court shall be disadvantaged by the lack of interpreter services, and should ensure that an appropriate staff member identifies the need for assistance prior to the hearing. Interpreter services may be authorised in respect of a witness, where this will assist the court in determining the matter. This need should normally be identified at the first court date or when the matter is listed for hearing. Having regard to the impact of this availability on the conduct of the proceedings and its benefit to the Court in the determination of the matter, consultation with a judge or registrar may be appropriate. Once the hearing has started, the judge, registrar or sessional registrar is ultimately responsible for the decision as to whether an interpreter is needed. If the judgee, registrar or sessional registrar determines that an interpreter is no longer required during the course of the proceedings, he/she should formally discharge the interpreter on the record.
2.5 Paragraph 2.4 applies equally to a litigant who is represented by a solicitor and one who is self-represented. However, the Court's responsibilities do not extend to ensuring that a litigant or client of the Court is able to effectively communicate with her or his solicitor, and the Court should not pay for an interpreter for this purpose.
2.6 Indigenous Clients in Remote Locations: Where indigenous clients are referred to community-based organisations for dispute resolution in remote locations, the following policy in relation to the use of non-accredited interpreters shall apply:
2.7 Exercise of Discretion: Discretion in case of doubt should be exercised in favour of using an interpreter's services.
Funding of Interpreter Services
3.1 Availability of Funds: A registry shall not refuse to fund access to an interpreter in accordance with these guidelines for the reason that sufficient funds are not available.
3.2 Booking an Interpreter: The Court will pay for interpreters assessed to be essential, when their engagement is authorised and booked by court staff. The Court will not pay for an interpreter booked by a barrister or solicitor, nor for a preferred interpreter selected by a solicitor in addition to an interpreter provided by the Court. Where a solicitor considers that the services of an interpreter may be required, the solicitor shall request the Court authorise and book the services of the interpreter. Unless particular circumstances apply to the contrary, the Court will only book one interpreter where the parties are from the same ethnic background. Every endeavour should be made to obtain the services of an interpreter who is independent from either of the parties.
3.3 The Court may access interpreter services from any source which is considered to be cost-effective, including from a tendered service. An interpreter engaged by the Court shall be engaged for an estimated fixed period of time but shall be paid only for time worked with a reasonable travel component. Where it is necessary to extend the engagement beyond the initial booking time, a second estimated period of time should be fixed. Booking officers should have regard to minimum and/or penalty charges imposed by agencies in selecting the most cost-effective booking period. The Court would not normally expect to pay a cancellation fee where the services of an interpreter are not required after the booking has been made. However, any cost incurred by the agency or the interpreter may be reimbursed at the registry manager or district registrar’s discretion.
3.4 An interpreter shall complete documentation stating the starting and finishing times of their engagement before leaving the Court precincts.
3.5 Where a witness from outside Australia provides evidence to the Court via a tele-link or video-conference, the Court will not authorise the costs of any related interpreter services unless the services are provided in Australia.
Accreditation of Interpreters
4. As far as is practicable, interpreters used for court work shall be accredited to a minimum standard of NAATI Level 3. It is acknowledged, however, that for a number of languages Level 2 accredited interpreters are the only ones available and in these circumstances this is acceptable. The policy described in paragraph 2.6 above shall apply in remote localities.
Deaf, Hearing Impaired and/or Speech Impaired Clients
5.1 The provision of interpreter services for this group of clients is specifically authorised by these guidelines.
5.2 Arrangements should be made for AUSLAN interpreters or CART (Communication Access Real-time Translation) service providers to assist clients at any event outlined in paragraph 2, who are deaf, hearing impaired and/or speech impaired.
5.3 The TTY service should be used for all telephone communication for those clients who are deaf, hearing impaired and/or speech impaired.
5.4 At least one courtroom at each registry should have a hearing loop installed, and arrangements should be made to assist clients by using this facility wherever possible.
6. It is the responsibility of parties to provide accredited translated copies of foreign documents to the Court. In exceptional circumstances where the Court determines that it is in the interests of the Court to obtain a translation of a document to assist in a defended hearing, this should be authorised by a judicial officer, and can be arranged and funded in the same way as interpreter services. The Court may receive correspondence in a foreign language from a litigant or potential litigant, unless this correspondence clearly fits the category of "nuisance mail". It is the Federal Circuit Court's obligation to meet the cost of translation, in accordance with the basic principle of access and equity in paragraph 1.2 above. Where there is doubt as to the relevance of, and necessity for a full translation, a general translation may be obtained, which would enable the responsible officer to then decide what further action should be taken.
Registry Managers - Responsibilities
7.1. Each registry manager or district registrar should designate in writing the officers who have authority to contact an agency on behalf of the court to book the services of an interpreter. The registry manager or district registrar is required to ensure that proper and efficient booking procedures are in place, together with effective acquittal and accounting procedures, and shall ensure that early notification of cancellation of interpreter bookings is in place.
7.2 Where an interpreter is booked, but the appointment or hearing does not proceed and the court is not advised, the Court may, at its discretion, seek to recover the amount paid to the interpreter from the client's legal representative or from the client.
Feedback and Complaints
8.1 Registries should establish a feedback mechanism to ensure that clients of the Court are assisted by high calibre interpreters. Some agencies have feedback forms and these should be used as far as possible. Dispute resolution staff and judicial officers should be encouraged to provide feedback to the service agency either through e-mail to the Registry booking officer or via a feedback form.
8.2 Where a complaint is made concerning the calibre or use of interpreter services, the complaints officer should handle the complaint in accordance with standard complaints handling procedures.
Linguistic Availability/Performance Allowance (LAPA)
9. This allowance is available to staff who have a sufficient level of community language skills to assist clients at the counter. Each registry should maintain an up-to-date list of officers in receipt of the allowance, as an addendum to the registry telephone directory. There is, of course, no difficulty with arrangements being made for a staff member who is not qualified for the allowance to provide assistance in answering inquiries.
Inquiries concerning this Policy
10. Inquiries should be directed to the registry manager or district registrar in the first instance. Registry managers or district registrars may contact the Federal Circuit Court Coordinator of Court Services where necessary.
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