Bad interpreters ruin court cases, says Mogoeng

2014-01-25 10:00

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Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng says South Africans are losing court cases because of the poor quality of court interpreters.

He was speaking at the annual general meeting of the Judicial Officers’ Association of South Africa in Benoni last night.

“If only the judiciary could take over language services, because we know what it takes to be a good interpreter,” he said.

“An interpreter is a second judge because people lose cases [as a result] of poor interpreters. I don’t know who trains these people.”

Mogoeng also said judicial officers were often blamed for the delays in the justice system when these were caused by the poor quality of investigations conducted by police.

He used the examples to demonstrate how judicial officers were often afflicted by problems that were beyond their control.

Court interpreters, for example, are administered by the justice department.

Mogoeng stressed that a “single judiciary”, the topic he was asked to speak on, was a constitutional injunction.

“Just as the president is the head of the executive throughout the country, so the chief justice is the head of the judiciary,” he said.

Mogoeng said the Constitution 17th Amendment Act and the Superior Courts Act had gone a long way in establishing an integrated judiciary.

Before 1993, magistrates were considered part of the civil service, but their integration into the judiciary has lagged behind that of superior court judges.

Deputy Justice Minister John Jeffery, who also spoke at the event, said plans would be implemented this year to initiate the Lower Courts Bill, which would overhaul the outdated Magistrates’ Court Act.

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