Biased interpreter

Biased interpretor

The biased interpreter – an often undiscovered problem in German criminal procedures

Before I have written about the „incompetent interpreters“ in German court-rooms – today we deal with the biased interpreter.

To start with we can state that court-room interpreters are not the „cream of the crop“. Their pay is not high enough to satisfy the really good one. Of course there are excellent interpreters who enjoy the work in the court-room. But they are hard to find.

Most interpreters you meet with in a criminal or civil procedure live from that kind of profession. And this is where it starts becoming delicate. They depend on getting jobs from the court and from the prosecution. Which might lead them to be a bit „kinder“ towards their employer. Be a person like the one on the picture above.

I do not want to say that they misinterpret intentionally. This would be against their oath and against their professional honor. I do not want to say that – here there should be no misunderstanding here.

But I do say that there is a danger that they might – subconsciously – tend to say rather what they think the prosecutor or the court wants to hear than to go into a conflict. Because the party or the defendant says something nobody would expect. 

I have never seen an interpreter in an argument with the court or the prosecutor – though there would have been reason for that. 

It is hard to detect such constellation and even harder than to get this across to the listener – the authorities. Because the court would rather believe the interpreter than the lawyer. Therefore it is essential that the lawyer has profound knowledge of the language his/her client speaks and can convey this to the person in charge – again the judge or court.

If you have to stand in court in a criminal procedure against you where you do not speak the official language of the court, it could be do unrepairable damage if you are not understood in the way you should. Try to avoid this by hiring a lawyer speaking your language.

If you have an issue in the German legal system and you speak English, you can contact us for help and support here


Dr. Donat Ebert

Ügyvéd - Rechtsanwalt (HU, D)

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