Date of Award

1996

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Health and Human Sciences

First Advisor

Don Thomson

Abstract

An expressed reluctance of the courts to employ interpreters has been challenged on the basis that a failure to provide such assistance to the Non-English Speaking (NES) witness contravenes the principles of natural justice. Further, NES defendants risk being misunderstood and incapacitated in their ability to effectively communicate the intended meaning of the evidence they are giving. In order to determine whether the presence of an interpreter exerts influence upon attributions of culpability given to a NES defendant, it was .important to identify whether evaluations were based on the interpreter's presence or on the defendant's ethnicity. Therefore, three trial conditions were filmed and randomly administered to a total of 90 participants recruited mainly from the student population at Edith Cowan University. Each trial condition was viewed by thirty participants. The hypothetical trial concerned a civil litigation case in which the same Australian plaintiff in all trial conditions attempted to establish negligence for a car accident. Evidence given by both parties made it difficult to determine fault. In the control 'condition, an Australian defendant argued her case against having to make restitution for damages not caused by her. In the condition controlling for ethnicity, a defendant of Italian background argued the same case in accented English. In the Interpreted condition, the same Italian defendant gave the same evidence in Italian with the assistance of an interpreter. Using a ratio-percentage scale, participants rated the proportion or culpability attributed to the defendant. They were also asked to indicate how much their decision was influenced by key participants involved in the trial process. Comments were invited with regard to the nature of this influence. The results of a one-way ANOVA returned means of 67 .33, 63.33 and 59.00, F(2, 87) = .81, p > .05, for the Australian., Italian-Australian and the Italian-interpreted conditions, respectively. The findings demonstrated that respondents did not discriminate between defendants. Qualitative data relating to the defendant and the interpreter was analysed for references to impression-formation and evidential information. The results demonstrated that evidential information was used to inform respondents' decisions. A finding of no influence attributed to the interpreter suggests that the reluctance of courts to employ such assistance is unjustified.

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