A new Federal Court Practice Note has just been issued by the Chief Justice, mainly to implement the recent second edition of the Recommended National Standards for Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals published in 2022 by the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity.
The main purposes of the practice note are:
- to implement in the Court the second edition of the Recommended National Standards for Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals published in 2022 by the Judicial Council on Cultural Diversity, with minor modifications as set out in Annexure B;
- to clarify that the Court has control over the giving of evidence that is interpreted or translated into English;
- to recognise the special status of an interpreter in the administration of justice by declaring the duties of an interpreter in relation to the Court and the parties to proceedings; and
- to provide some procedural guidance on the operation of the FCA Standards in the Court (which are for the Court, judicial officers, interpreters, and legal practitioners).
The Practice Note is effective from 24 March 2023 and applies to all civil and criminal proceedings commenced after that, “and to any existing proceedings which the Court directs should be subject to the Practice Note in whole or in part”.
The foreward to the new edition of the National Standards notes some key revisions:
The language of the document has been adjusted to be more inclusive of tribunals and the different needs of the tribunal process compared to that of courts. Specific recommendations regarding the suggested process for engaging an interpreter were amended to emphasise that in all circumstances and for all languages, the most highly certified or qualified interpreter should always be first preference. References to interpreters as officers of the court were, where possible, qualified to emphasise that interpreters owe paramount duties to the court or tribunal and are independent of the party who may have hired them or the party they are interpreting for. (emphasis in bold is by this blogger)
Additionally, in response to significant increases in the use of audio/visual technology in court and tribunal proceedings, several changes were made to both Optimal Standard 1 Equipment and Annexure 6 AVL Guidelines to provide greater detail and specificity in the recommendations therein.
You can find the Practice Note here.
Hat tips to Laura Smith-Khan and Simon Rice.