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Use of interpreters in criminal cases

20 October 2015
This practice note includes detailed advice on the use of interpreters pre-trial in the police station and in court.

Legal status

This practice note is the Law Society's view of good practice in this area. It is not legal advice.

Practice notes are issued by the Law Society for the use and benefit of its members. They represent the Law Society's view of good practice in a particular area. They are not intended to be the only standard of good practice that solicitors can follow. You are not required to follow them, but doing so will make it easier to account to oversight bodies for your actions.

Practice notes are not legal advice, nor do they necessarily provide a defence to complaints of misconduct or of inadequate professional service. While care has been taken to ensure that they are accurate, up to date and useful, the Law Society will not accept any legal liability in relation to them.

For queries or comments on this practice note contact the Law Society's Practice Advice Service.

Professional conduct

The following sections of the SRA Code are relevant to this issue:

  • Principle 1 - you must act in the best interests of your client
  • Principle 9 - you must run your business or carry out your role in the business in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity
  • Chapter 2 - Equality and diversity: Outcome 2.1 you do not discriminate unlawfully, or victimise or harass anyone, in the course of your professional dealings.
  • Outcome 2.2 you provide services to clients in a way that respects diversity.
  • Outcome 2.3 You make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled clients, employees or managers are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to those who are not disabled, and that you do not pass on the cost of these adjustments to these disabled clients, employees and managers.
  • Chapter 4 - Confidentiality and disclosure: Outcome 4.1 you must keep the affairs of clients confidential unless disclosure is required or permitted by law or the client consents

SRA Principles

There are ten mandatory principles which apply to all those the SRA regulates and to all aspects of practice. The principles can be found in the SRA Handbook.

The principles apply to solicitors or managers of authorised bodies who are practising from an office outside the UK. They also apply if you are a lawyer-controlled body practising from an office outside the UK.

Terminology

Must - A specific requirement in legislation or of a principle, rule, outcome or other mandatory provision in the SRA Handbook. You must comply, unless there are specific exemptions or defences provided for in relevant legislation or the SRA Handbook.

Should - Outside of a regulatory context, good practice for most situations in the Law Society's view. In the case of the SRA Handbook, an indicative behaviour or other non-mandatory provision (such as may be set out in notes or guidance).

These may not be the only means of complying with legislative or regulatory requirements and there may be situations where the suggested route is not the best possible route to meet the needs of your client. However, if you do not follow the suggested route, you should be able to justify to oversight bodies why the alternative approach you have taken is appropriate, either for your practice, or in the particular retainer.

May - A non-exhaustive list of options for meeting your obligations or running your practice. Which option you choose is determined by the profile of the individual practice, client or retainer. You may be required to justify why this was an appropriate option to oversight bodies.

The Law Society also provides a full glossary of other terms used throughout this practice note

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Practice Advice Service

The Practice Advice Service provides a dedicated support line for Law Society members and employees of law firms. Call us on 020 7320 5675.

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