This is a decision by a Circuit Judge, so informative rather than binding.
Re R (translation of documents in proceedings) 2015
You may be thinking, as I initially did – “but the President has already ruled on that!”
Indeed he did, and ruled that it was deeply unfair for a parent who doesn’t speak English not to have the documents translated into their own language, but not all of the documents, and not every bit of the documents. In fact, the parent in the President’s case got the generous amount of 51 pages translated (from a bundle of 591 pages) – thus less than 10%, and it was one of the President’s many rages about 350 page bundles, so even assuming a 350 page bundle, he’d have been getting about 15% of the documents.
So why is this even a case?
Well, because in the Presidents case Re L 2015
There was no dispute about WHO would pay for the translation, everyone agreed that it would be the parent’s legal aid certificate, but rather about how much should be translated. The estimate was £38 per page, so translating everything would have been £23,000.
In this case, there was a dispute about whether the legal aid agency would, or should, pay at all, or whether someone else should pay. I don’t know why the LAA didn’t raise that as an issue before the President (or rather, I do, it is because they knew they’d lose) but it wasn’t settled by Re L.
And of course, there’s absolutely no clarity in the LAA guidance, and no consistency around the country. So this issue is going to crop up over and over.
Her Honour Judge Roberts dealt with it in this way, which I think is very sensible
1. The LA are responsible for translating the pre-proceedings documents, and the initial statement and care plan, since at that point, the parties don’t have lawyers who have a public funding certificate.
2. After that point, the Legal Aid Agency are responsible for the costs of translating other documents, and it is the decision of the parent’s solicitors which documents they feel the parents need to have translated.
Very pragmatically, if you were making the Local Authority pay for the translation in category 2, that would involve them in a decision about which documents the parents needed to see, and that just doesn’t feel right at all.
I’m afraid that this is only binding in Suffolk courts (or until the Legal Aid Agency persuade the Minister to give them a get out of jail card in the form of some new regulations about it), but it might be helpful when the issue arises.
Without being all Nigel Farage about it, this is a real issue. When I started in family law, a case with a foreign parent happened once or twice per year, now it is about a third of my case load. Translation costs are considerable, and it is of course vital that a parent properly understands the allegations that are being made against them and sees the proper detail that they need to fight the case.
If you think that the title of the piece was just a cheap excuse for me to crowbar in a picture of Scarlet Johansson then, how right you are.
If Ms Johansson ever does get offered an acting role as a family lawyer and wants to shadow anyone for the role, I am available. *
*On consultation with my wife, it turns out that I’m not.