New research aimed at improving language interpretation for children who become the victims of crime is now underway at Heriot-Watt University's Edinburgh Campus.
The project is launched on the same day as the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament hears evidence on the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Bill from experts including Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People.
The University's research is part of a European drive to help implement new law relating to the protection of crime victims and the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings (EU Directive 2010/64/EU) .
Helping victims of crime
An estimated 75 million people across Europe fall victim to crime every year, often with devastating physical and emotional consequences for them and their families. Whether at home or abroad all victims have basic rights entitling them to be treated with respect and offered protection and support in a format and a language they understand.
The CO-Minor-IN/QUEST project will examine current interpreting and interviewing techniques specifically for crime victims who are 18 years old and under across five countries including Scotland, The Netherlands, Italy, France, Belgium and Hungary. In the majority of these cases victims have often experienced traumatic events, such as sexual abuse, and are subject to specific legal procedures.
Researchers, Professor Ursula Böser and Christine Wilson, from Heriot-Watt's School of Management and Languages will bring together youth lawyers, police, psychologists, researchers and practitioners in the field of interpreting to identify current practice in Scotland and the EU and to address the issues which arise in bilingual settings.
This new research will lead to improved best practice guidelines and training for interpreters and others in the criminal justice system, to ensure young victims, particularly vulnerable children and young people with disabilities, get the support they need.
It's important that we establish supportive procedures and practice which help everyone in the criminal justice system work together to achieve best practice in interpreting and ensure the safety and rights of young victims are protected.
Professor Ursula Boser
Professor Ursula Böser, Deputy Head of Heriot-Watt School of Management and Languages said, "This work will ensure that Scotland is well placed to provide highly skilled interpreters who understand the needs of the criminal justice system and the sensitivities of working with vulnerable children, often in very distressing situations.
"Scotland is increasingly multicultural with the number of languages spoken by individuals and communities estimated to exceed 150. It's important that we establish supportive procedures and practice which help everyone in the criminal justice system work together to achieve best practice in interpreting and ensure the safety and rights of young victims are protected."
Building on recent research
This new research builds upon the findings of a recent study by an international research group including researchers at the Centre of Translation and Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS) at Heriot-Watt University which is helping to protect people's language rights in criminal proceedings and improve police and legal interpreting in Scotland and the EU.
European legislation enshrined in EU Directive 2010/64/EU entitles people who are suspected or accused of a crime and who do not speak or understand the language of the proceedings to interpreting or translation services.
Failure to make such provision, or poor interpretation services, can result in cases collapsing or make trial proceedings inadmissible.
Collaboration with the police
As part of the European comparative study researchers at Heriot-Watt produced a short film, in collaboration with the police. This demonstrates best practice in interpreter-mediated interviews of suspects, victims, witnesses and experts and to better understand police interviewing techniques. The film demonstrates how the interpreter is more than a translator and needs to provide cultural expertise to clarify points without assuming a role which would interfere with investigative aims.
The study also helped to create better understanding between the police, judicial professionals, interpreters and interpreter trainers and helped raise awareness of the role of interpreters in assisting with police and prosecution work.