The language of the court is German – continued

The language of the court in Germany is German, but also Sorbian.

There is in fact an EU directive which guarantees the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings, when implemented.

Directive 2010/64/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings

Section 187 of the Courts Constitution Act, as cited in my last-but-one post, implements this requirement, but with a loophole which can save the courts ordering a translation.

To quote the translation of the section once more:

An oral translation of the documents or an oral summary of the content of the documents may be substituted for a written translation if the rights of the accused under the law of criminal procedure are thereby safeguarded. As a rule, this can be assumed if the accused has defence counsel.

A colleague, Corinna Schlüter-Ellner, explained the situation in more detail. There is a provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure, section 37 (3) (see below) which makes it necessary to serve an indictment with a translation if the defendant does not speak German. If this is not done, time does not begin to run, because it would be unfair to the other parties. In the case of a Strafbefehl, however, there is only one party, so the court does not risk the service being ineffective without a translation – the defendant has to get a translation if one is needed.

Strafprozeßordnung (StPO)
§ 37 Zustellungsverfahren
(1) Für das Verfahren bei Zustellungen gelten die Vorschriften der Zivilprozeßordnung entsprechend.
(2) Wird die für einen Beteiligten bestimmte Zustellung an mehrere Empfangsberechtigte bewirkt, so richtet sich die Berechnung einer Frist nach der zuletzt bewirkten Zustellung.
(3) Ist einem Prozessbeteiligten gemäß § 187 Absatz 1 und 2 des Gerichtsverfassungsgesetzes eine Übersetzung des Urteils zur Verfügung zu stellen, so ist das Urteil zusammen mit der Übersetzung zuzustellen. Die Zustellung an die übrigen Prozessbeteiligten erfolgt in diesen Fällen gleichzeitig mit der Zustellung nach Satz 1.

Code of Criminal Procedure
Original translation by Brian Duffett and Monika Ebinger
Translation updated by Kathleen Müller-Rostin and Iyamide Mahdi
Coordinating Editor of the Translation Mrs. Mahdi

Section 37
[Procedure Concerning Service]
(1) The provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure shall apply mutatis mutandis to the procedure for service.
(2) Where documents addressed to a participant are served on several persons authorized to receive them, time limits shall be calculated from the date on which the last person was served.
(3) If a translation of the judgment is to be made available to a participant in the proceedings pursuant to section 187 subsections (1) and (2) of the Courts Constitution Act, the judgment shall be served together with the translation. In such cases service on the other participants in the proceedings shall be effected at the same time as service pursuant to the first sentence.

And here’s a nice article (in German) with pictures of the coordinating translator Mrs Mahdi, born in Glasgow.

Comments: we don’t use mutatis mutandis in legislation in the UK nowadays, as a search on the statute database shows (99 results, using Advanced Search), but with the necessary modifications (over 200 results). It usually indicates a translation done by a German lawyer!
addressed to a participant: addressed to one party (participant)?

3 thoughts on “The language of the court is German – continued

  1. Thanks for the continued eludication, Margaret.

    ‘The language of the court… is also Sorbian.’ Can we assume this means Sorb as in Wendish or Lusatian, as spoken in eastern Germany and oft-confusable with Serbian to which the language is indeed related on the back of historical mass migration up from Yugoslavia.

    That apart, and as a party-loving ‘participant’ in this narrative, I wonder whether ‘with the necessary modifications’ for entsprechend is really an improvement on the crisp term of mutatis mutandis following Lord Woolf’s misguided anti-Latin civil justice reforms in 1998. .

  2. Do I detect a thinly veiled criticism of the (correct) word ‘Sorbian’, aka Wendish or Lusatian? A Sorb, Wend or Lusatian speaks Sorbian. I think that making Serbian a court language might be the thin end of a very thick wedge.
    Sad for some that ‘mutatis mutandis’ is no longer the standard term used by UK drafters, albeit not at the direct instigation of Lord Woolf, as far as I know. At least I still use the word ‘plaintiff’. Unlike some!

  3. No criticism. Sorbian is indeed an ‘alternative’ to Sorb as a language decriptor I had checked up on first and I used only to highlight the contrast with Serbian or, controversially, Serbo-Croat as an erstwhile title in the Teach Yourself series.

    Alas, in my view, Lord Woolf with his hidden Anti-Pontius Pilate agenda, was the main catalyst for the Latin backlash in the year 2000.

    Like you, I also still use – especially for US and Canadian consumption – plaintiff vs. claimant, the latter that, until 1998, had already been used in UK arbitration (claimant vs. respondent).

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