I started out this week thinking what a pain it was that we would have to endure the interpreters all week. It’s one thing to have an interpreter outside court, or sat inside court whispering to your client, and quite another to have the full blown interpretation experience – with every last mundane detail and trip of the tongue faithfully rendered in somali or french or thai. “Spoils the flow”, agreed myself and my opponent earlier in the week. But in fact (and although I say that at the start of every interpreted hearing) there are advantages.
One can’t ask a punchy question and move in swiftly for the kill when interpreters are involved. A witness can spot you coming, has time to work out what you are leading up to. You need to get used to the timing, the shift of gear. But one can take a tolerably good almost verbatim note and – more importantly – is able to formulate staged questions at a measured pace without risk of the witness leaping in mid question. It is in many ways a facilitator of well constructed, responsive cross examination – because there is inbuilt thinking time : I know I must get from A to C via B, I can pause and construct my sentence whilst my last phrase is being interpreted.
It works like a charm. Slow motion cross examination. Forget those killer questions. Paced, measured and methodical cross examination can be very effective. As long as the interpretation is skilfull and accurate, the addition of an interpreter promotes structure rather than chaos.