Police use of interpreters in routine cases: Challenges and innovative solutions

Dr Loene M Howes1
1University Of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia

Police use of interpreters is a matter of human rights. It is one important practice that can contribute to equitable access to justice, from the start of the justice process. Recent research has focused on police use of interpreters with high-value detainees in the contexts of national and international security. This focus can be explained by a high level of scrutiny of such cases and an explicit duty of care to detainees. By contrast, limited research has considered police use of interpreters with victims, witnesses, and suspects in the types of cases to which police routinely respond in the context of a multicultural Australian society. Drawing from the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, this presentation considers emerging best practices in police use of interpreters. It reports the findings of a study of police investigators’ experiences of working with interpreters in two Australian jurisdictions. The presentation discusses the challenges identified by police investigators in their work with interpreters. It reports innovative solutions that are developing in practice in investigative interviews and other interpreter-assisted aspects of police work. The presentation concludes by proposing a research agenda to enhance current practices in police use of interpreters and contribute to improved access to justice for all.


Loene is a lecturer in Criminology in the College of Arts, Law and Education at the University of Tasmania. She is a researcher in the Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies and the Institute for the Study of Social Change. Loene’s interdisciplinary and applied research aims to contribute to improved social justice by enhancing the effectiveness of communication in the criminal justice process. Her current research projects explore the internationalisation of criminology in higher education and police interviewers’ experiences of working with interpreters.



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