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Public order case thrown in doubt over lack of East Timorese interpreter

Courts justice

A case involving two men charged with public order offences including assaults has been thrown in doubt due to a lack of an appropriate interpreter.

Nivio Da Silva (22) from Scotch Street and Tome Pereira Moniz (36) from Brooke Street both in Dungannon are jointly charged with assaulting a male and using disorderly behaviour.

Da Silva is further accused of assaulting a female in the same incident which allegedly occurred at Northland Row on December 18, 2022.

Defence barristers for the accused previously entered not guilty pleas to all charges at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court and the case was adjourned to allocate a date for hearing as a contest.

However, this is proving problematic as both accused are from East Timor and speak the Tetum language, which is one of two languages spoken, the other being Portuguese, depending on the region.

At the most recent court sitting a contest date again could not be fixed as the single Tetum interpreter is unable to take part and cannot be available for the case, which in order to protect the legal rights of the accused, cannot proceed without translation.

A prosecuting lawyer advised “there are difficulties securing an interpreter” as there is only one working in Northern Ireland and he has expressed a conflict of interest and “will never be available”.

Deputy District Judge Sean O’Hara remarked: “Someone is going to have to come up with a more inventive solution such as getting someone to come from the South of Ireland or England.”

He was informed the agency which provides interpreters for court “are having difficulty in even sourcing one from England and don’t contract from the south”.

Judge O’Hare said: “This is against the backdrop of the defendants being unable to have a fair trial and follow proceedings. The PPS are going to have to look at this to find out the best way forward and if that is unresolved there will need to be legal argument on a stay of proceedings.”

He adjourned the case until April 3 with instructions for the PPS directing officer to review how they intend to proceed.

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