This study investigates the position of legal interpreting within the England and Wales’ criminal justice system, as well as the status of legal interpreters. It was carried out with nine categories of personnel within the criminal justice system, comprising of judges, lawyers, clerks to the justices, magistrates, probation officers, police officers, prison officers, immigration officers and immigration advisory service officers, 186 number in total. Methods: a qualitative method of enquiry is adopted with questionnaires sent to the above categories, which formed the basis of nine questions used in semi-structured interviews with 38 members from the above categories. The categories were not equally represented, depending on access. These interviews have been considered as the major method of investigation. Participant observation is used as an informal method of enquiry for deepening contextualisation of the study. Themes: four main themes have emerged: culture and communication, role and contradictory role of the interpreter, the position of the interpreter and context of interpreting barriers. Findings: the practice of interpreting is misunderstood and undervalued. The interpreter is not considered as an active participant in the legal process. The role of the interpreter is viewed in terms of a mechanical one, since interpreters are expected to interpret word for word without seeking clarifications of unclear utterance or concept. Implications of the study: criminal justice personnel need a deeper understanding of the practice of interpreting and the diverse role of the interpreter. The study highlights the professional status of interpreters. Proposals are put forward for improvements to the present situation through statutory recognition and protection of title.
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