Legal language

This, from RollonFriday, is a hoot.

Court hears evidence for an hour before being told it’s not in English

A witness gave evidence in court for over an hour this week before it was pointed out that she wasn’t speaking English.

The woman, originally from Sierra Leone, was appearing at the rape trial of preacher Gilbert Deya at the Inner London Crown Court. Barristers repeatedly asked her to speak more clearly and to step away from the microphone, until eventually the court clerk (who also hailed from Sierra Leone) told the judge that the woman was speaking Krio, an African Creole variant. The judge swore the clerk in and she acted as an interpreter*.

Deya, who styles himself Archbishop (despite his see being an industrial estate in Peckham, South London) is charged with repeatedly raping the woman. He is also fighting extradition to his native Kenya where he faces charges of abducting children and presenting them as “miracle babies” to infertile women. In 2011 his nephew Paul Deya was jailed for a minimum of 20 years for murdering his own three-year-old son. Lovely family.

Barristers claimed that they thought the witness was speaking English, but they were unable to understand her due to her strong accent and the court’s poor acoustics. The trial continues.

I can picture the officers of the court, in a state of bewilderment, looking at one another waiting for somebody else to make the point that they did not have a clue what the witness was saying!

*The asterisked note refers to a classic story from way back at the start of my legal career. I heard it slightly differently, but here’s how RollonFriday recounts it:

*cf. the possibly apocryphal but widely reported story of a German sailor appearing before the Glasgow Sheriff Court who claimed not to speak any English. A man in the public gallery said that he spoke fluent German and offered to help. He was sworn in and asked to establish the sailor’s name. The interpreter turned to him and yelled, “vot ist your name!”. The judge fined him £200 for contempt.

Of a similar vintage, was the story told of the lawyer at Glasgow Sheriff Court, making an impassioned plea for leniency for his client, emphasizing his war service.

When the Sheriff asked where the man had served, back came the reply “Europe.”

When the Sheriff asked in what unit the man had served, back came the reply “21st Panzer Division.” There was no leniency that day.