Translation and the Law
When developing your Government department’s language policies and communication strategies it is advisable to consider the following articles of law. This research should be used to help you to decide what you translate and when you use interpreters (or telephone interpreters).
Race Relations Act (1976)
The Race Relations Act 1976 established the Commission for Racial Equality and provided definitions of direct and indirect discrimination, on grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origin. Direct discrimination is defined as treating one person less favourably on grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origin, in the provision of goods, facilities and services, employment, housing and advertising. Indirect discrimination means discrimination by the imposition of unjustifiable conditions which can be met by more people of one colour, race, ethnic or national origin than another. Someone who has been discriminated against can take individual civil action, through an industrial tribunal for employment matters, or in the county court for other matters.
Section 71 of the Act requires local authorities to make appropriate arrangements with a view to securing that their various functions are carried out with due regard to the need –
(a) to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination; and
(b) to promote equality of opportunity, and good relations, between persons of different racial groups.
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 requires service providers to make reasonable adjustments, which includes providing additional aids or services to enable a disabled person to access a service or make it easier for them to do so. For example, providing communication support, such as British Sign Language (BSL).
Human Rights Act
The Human Rights Act came into effect on 2 October 2000. The European Convention on Human Rights has far-reaching implications for local government, as all kinds of rules, procedures and contracts can have human rights implications. It applies to criminal and civil law, which includes tribunals and quasi-judicial procedures (including assessments, reviews and case conferences) which may affect individual liberties. Interpretation of the Convention will develop over time and there will be legal challenges which will clarify the scope of the Convention.
For local authorities, the Act makes it a legal duty to act compatibly with the Convention rights. People who consider their rights under the Convention to have been harmed may take the authority to court.
Article 6 gives the right to a fair trial, in both criminal and civil cases, including the right to be informed promptly, in a language which (the accused) understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him; and in a criminal trial to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.
It is likely that the courts will apply similar standards of fairness to civil cases.
Article 14 prohibits discrimination: The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.
European Directives under Article 13 of the Treaty of Amsterdam forbid discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation, and ethnic origin. They cover employment, working conditions and access to training. The Race Directive also covers access to goods and services.
Freedom of Information Act 2000
The Freedom of Information Act 2000 states that subject to some exemptions, any person who makes a request to a public authority for information, must be informed whether the public authority holds that information, and if so, the public authority must communicate that information to him.
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