The Supreme Court will introduce this spring a new system of training for interpreters who translate courtroom remarks by judges, prosecutors, lawyers and witnesses for foreign defendants, court officials said Tuesday. The training sessions will be held at district courts around the country, with judges giving lessons on the legal details and ethics rules involved in translating during court proceedings, the officials said. It will be the first comprehensive training given to court translators. So far, translators have mainly been expected to study by themselves to improve their skills, but the new system is designed to cope with the growing number of trials involving non-Japanese, the officials said. Court interpreters are essential in trials involving foreign defendants who cannot understand Japanese. Currently, there are no full-time professionals who en gage exclusively in court translation. Courts recruit business interpreters, university teachers and other people who are qualified to do the job and appoint people from the list whenever a trial involving a foreign national begins. As of last April, a total of about 2,600 such people were registered with courts nationwide. The new system is primarily designed to give these people basic legal knowledge to help them cope with complicated trial procedures, since many of the translators have little specialized legal knowledge. Courtroom debates can become heated, especially in cases in which defendants plead not guilty or challenge the prosecutors’ arguments, making it difficult for interpreters to provide correct translations throughout the entire process. Under the new system, judges will give briefings on basic trial procedures and explanations of typical legal terms used in each stage of a trial, the officials said. Experienced court translators will also recount situations they themselves have been faced with to new recruits. Participants will also receive instruction on ethics rules, including the court translators’ duty of keeping the details of the trial secret, they added. Each training session will last for one day. The courts will also provide better briefing sessions to people who apply to be a court interpreter. Currently, officials of each district court explain the trial system when they interview applicants, who are also given the opportunity to monitor courtroom proceedings from the public gallery. Under the new system, the court officials’ preparatory lessons will be based on a nationally standardized manual. Applicants will also receive lessons about basic trial procedures and courtroom terminology, the officials said.
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