Right to interpretation and translation

During a criminal trial in France, the language used to communicate is French. However, victims may not speak this language. Similarly, they may have a disability such as deafness or be mute.

In such cases, the law establishes the right to an interpreter and a translation of the essential documents in the case file, necessary for the exercise of the victim’s rights.

Translators and interpreters are sworn experts, named in a list drawn up by the Court of Appeal. They are paid by the court.
The interpreter’s task is to translate what the judge and the various participants in the trial say, to ensure that the procedure is properly understood and that the best possible judgement is reached. Thus, if a witness does not speak French, the interpreter will translate the questions put to them as accurately as possible, and conversely, the interpreter will translate to the judge, in the most precise terms, what the witness has answered.

In order to make use of this right to interpretation and translation, the victim must apply for it. The judge should check that the victim does not speak or understand French. If the victim has a disability, such as deafness, verbal translation may be provided. The use of an interpreter should be recorded in the report of the trial.

If, however, victims do not specify that they do not speak or understand French, it is up to the investigator to determine this before the trial begins.

During the court trial, the judge or the victim may challenge the interpreter and the quality of the interpretation. In this case, the authority in charge of the case may choose a new interpreter.

I was a victim of a criminal offence: consequences and reactions The rights of victims of a criminal offence Criminal proceedings Who is who in criminal proceedings

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