• Kyodo

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A video link system between two different courts was used for interpretation for the first time in Japan on Monday, to hand down rulings to foreign defendants, in an effort to compensate as the number of court interpreters shrinks.

The Yamagata District Court gave suspended sentences to two women from the Philippines for violating Japan’s immigration law. A Tagalog-Japanese interpreter from a different court provided services via the video system.

On a large monitor, the interpreter told the two women the court had imposed a prison term of 18 months, suspended for three years, on both Singson Blessyl Avilanes, 33, and Ragadio Grace Ann Cabatit, 34, in separate rulings.

Video links had previously been used to connect the courtroom and a separate room within the same courthouse for witness interrogation. But the revised criminal procedure law that took effect in 2018 allows witnesses living away from the court to participate in questioning remotely.

The same system can also be used by interpreters, to mitigate a decline in the number of such workers amid a rapid increase in demand for them.

The number of registered interpreters fell 4 percent in the four years through 2018, to 3,788, while the number of foreign defendants in need of interpreters increased nearly 60 percent, to 3,757, during the same period, according to the Supreme Court.

According to the ruling, the two women entered Japan on working visas as cooks, but had worked as employees of a cosmetic manufacturing company between October 2017 and October 2019. They had their visas extended after falsely telling immigration authorities that they planned on continuing to work as cooks.

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