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Wednesday, 13 March 2013


Having recently received a Jury Summons it was the one occasion when Mrs Briton was happy to be classed as elderly. Others will not escape this civic duty so easily. Rather thoughtfully Her Majesty's Courts Service includes in the contents of their buff envelope texts in a variety of unintelligible languages for the benefit of those unable to speak the mother tongue. Using Google Translate the opening sentence of the only readily identifiable language was translated thus: 
Wezwanie do lawy przysieglych
Zostal(a) Pan(i) wezwany/-a do stawienia sie w sadzie w charakterze czlonka lawy przysieglych.  
"The call to jury. Was(a) you(i) requested/-a to appear in court as a member of the jury" so inability to understand the lingo is no impediment to attend for jury service although a judge may decide otherwise at a later date.

In order to qualify for jury service a person must be between the ages of 18 and 70 years old, registered to vote on the government electoral register and be a registered citizen in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least 5 years since their thirteenth birthday. A judge has the ability to discharge a person from jury service if he believes the person cannot sufficiently understand English and is therefore unable to understand any evidence given so lacking the capacity to cope with the information needed for the trial. - Presumably in those circumstances a translator will be needed to tell them that they are excused and assist in completing a claim for attendance!

One wonders why anyone on the electoral register who has been a registered citizen in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least 5 years since their thirteenth birthday is unable to understand English. Clearly the Communities and Local Government secretary Eric Pickles was thinking along the same lines when he argued that publishing papers in English would encourage migrants to integrate. He singled out Crawley council in Sussex for spending £600 on translating its glossy 12-page in-house magazine into Urdu after a single resident complained they couldn't read English. Other examples are freely available. A quick 'Google' shows the facilities available form Haringey Council: You can ask a council officer who is dealing with your enquiry for a translation of council letters or other council documents. Most council documents have a language panel on the back cover. You can ask for a translation of that particular document by completing your details on the form given and returning to the freepost address shown. You do not have to pay for translations.

The absurdity of this situation was highlighted in 2010 when a Mail Online reporter disclosed that there was a school in Birmingham where 60 per cent of pupils spoke English as a second language and computer translators were used so that the children could communicate with teachersInterpreters are used in the health service and to enable people to avail themselves of the services provided by the Department of Works and Pensions. As Mr Pickles told MPs,"Stopping the automatic use of translation and interpretation services into foreign languages will provide further incentive for all migrant communities to learn English, which is the basis for an individual's ability to progress in British society. It will promote cohesion and better community relations. And it will help councils make sensible savings at a time when every bit of the public sector needs to do its bit to pay off the deficit." 

Hear, hear!

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