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Golizardeh v Sarfraz [2021] EWHC 2814 (Ch): Interpreters, Remote Trials, Fairness & Identifying Language Issues Early - Nicholas Dobbs, Temple Garden Chambers

25/11/21. In Golizardeh v Sarfraz, the defendant appealed against an order giving judgment for the claimant in the sum of £200,000, plus interest. The appeal was brought under CPR 52.21(3)(b) on the grounds that the decision of the Judge was unjust because of a serious procedural irregularity, namely that the Judge wrongly refused to allow the use of an interpreter for one of the defendant’s witnesses (who requested an interpreter) and, more generally, did not allow the interpreter to assist the defendant and his other witnesses, for all of whom English was their second language.

Early identification of any language difficulties, and appropriate action, is beneficial in any case but especially in the circumstances of this appeal. Relevant case law, including Dunbar Assets PLC v Dorcas Holdings Ltd & Ors [2013] EWCA Civ 864, demonstrated that the appellant needed to show both that there was a serious irregularity and that the decision was thereby rendered unjust; in assessing whether there was a procedural irregularity, the court would consider all the circumstances, including the positions taken by the parties at the hearing, which was crucial here.

The defendant’s witnesses provided witness statements in English. None gave any indication that they had been translated from any other language. No application had been made for the assistance of an interpreter at the CMC. However, an interpreter was made available at trial for the defendant’s witnesses at trial, which was to be conducted remotely via Skype for Business in accordance with the Civil Justice Protocol Regarding Remote Hearings. The defendant’s witnesses were organised to give evidence from the same room, where the interpreter was also present.

At the hearing, the Judge said that that the...

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