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Published: 17 February 2017

Improving the quality of remote interpreting in legal proceedings

Police and courts in the UK require interpreters in over a hundred languages every day. Legal interpreters are an essential part of the justice system, and their efficient integration into legal proceedings is crucial to ensure the fair and efficient delivery of justice. However, traditional onsite interpreting is expensive, and qualified legal interpreters are not always available where they are needed.

Research at the University of Surrey has investigated remote interpreting in legal proceedings, delivered via videoconference, as an alternative to onsite delivery. Previously, little was known about the quality and viability of remote interpreting, and Surrey conducted the first-ever survey among legal interpreters and justice-sector institutions in Europe to explore the potential for the effective use of remote interpreting in legal proceedings. Together with other European partners, Surrey then designed an experimental study comparing traditional and remote interpreting in legal settings. 

The findings from this mixed-methods research have been actively used to develop good practice guidelines, consultancy and training across Europe. The training was customised for the Metropolitan Police and has been delivered to over seven hundred legal interpreters. The European Council Working Party on e-Justice have adopted the project’s guidelines across Europe, thus enabling high-quality service delivery, which in a legal setting is vital for accuracy and just outcomes.

The use of videoconferencing to deliver remote interpreting demonstrates how technology can enable new modalities of communication. Distance communication differs in many ways from traditional face-to-face communication and presents practical challenges, highlighting the important role of research in developing effective solutions for distance communication.