Overview: The Ministry’s process for managing booking requests and travel arrangements, and what to expect at the court or in the hearing room.
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Booking requests and travel arrangements
The Central Registry (CR) manages the booking and payment of interpreters for all courts and tribunals, except the Māori Land Court, Waitangi Tribunal and the Immigration & Protection Tribunal.
When we email an interpreter about their availability to take on a booking, we call this a ‘request’. We advise interpreters to confirm their availability for a booking as quickly as possible, as we may contact several interpreters with the same request. Once a request is confirmed, we will send you a booking confirmation email.
The CR also makes any special travel and accommodation arrangements. When you advise the CR that you’re available for a booking, you (as a provider on an interpreter’s behalf, or an individual interpreter) will need to provide details of any special travel requirements.
Standard Terms and Conditions for Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals (Standard Terms)
Our Standard Terms apply to all interpreter bookings engaged on behalf of courts and tribunals, whether the booking is agreed over the phone or in writing. When you accept a booking to provide interpreter services, you’re automatically accepting these Standard Terms for the engagement.
Please make sure you’re familiar with the Standard Terms before you respond to a booking request as, unless otherwise specified, they’ll replace any terms and conditions you’ve previously provided to us.
The information below is provided for your guidance, but is not legal advice and does not set out the full requirements of the Standard Terms. Please refer to the Standard Terms themselves for the definitive wording of the relevant terms and conditions.
A booking is confirmed when the CR sends you a confirmation email with a booking confirmation letter (together referred to as the ‘Booking Confirmation’ in the Standard Terms). In this email you’ll receive a link to the Standard Terms that apply to the booking, a confirmation letter, and further information to support your assignment. You’ll also receive an itinerary if you’ve requested special travel requirements. We advise interpreters to keep a copy of this email, so they can show someone at court if needed.
It’s important that interpreters know that the booking confirmation is the record of the Ministry’s agreement to engage their services as an interpreter, and what has been agreed. Except in urgent cases where the Ministry advises otherwise, interpreters should not consider themselves booked to provide their services until they have received a confirmation email with a booking confirmation letter attached. In those urgent cases the Ministry will follow up with a booking confirmation as soon as possible afterwards to record what was arranged.
What to do if you don’t receive a booking confirmation
Contact the CR if a hearing you’re booked for is three days away (or less) and you haven’t received a confirmation email. If you’ve misplaced your documents, please contact the CR.
Email: email@example.com quoting the case reference number and party names.
Phone: 0800 COURTS (0800 268 787) within 48 hours of the hearing for any urgent requests or questions about a booking.
Bookings for the Immigration & Protection Tribunal
The process for booking an interpreter for both hearings and teleconferences in the Immigration & Protection Tribunal (IPT) differs slightly, in order to meet the specific needs of the Tribunal.
Case managers from IPT will continue to use the list of interpreters supplied to the Ministry by the Refugee Status Branch of Immigration New Zealand, to identify an interpreter. This list is private and is not published by the Ministry.
A case manager from IPT will contact the interpreter to check their availability. The case manager will also undertake a conflict of interest check with the interpreter.
The CR will email a booking confirmation to the interpreter. This will include a copy of the Guidelines and Code of Ethics specific to the IPT.
The confirmation letter you receive may say ‘Name Suppressed’.
This means there is a suppression order restricting the publication of certain details, which may be either as a result of a statutory prohibition or judicial order restricting publication. The suppression order can apply to the defendant or another party in the case, such as the victim.
You must always keep all details relating to a case confidential, but you should be particularly careful if there’s a suppression order.
You may face legal action, including a fine or imprisonment, if you breach a suppression order by disclosing any of the suppressed details.
Update your contact details
You can update your contact details by emailing the CR.
If you’re interpreting for the Immigration & Protection Tribunal, you can update your contact details by contacting the Refugee Status Branch of Immigration New Zealand (MBIE)(external link)
How the Ministry uses your contact details
The Ministry holds a national list of interpreters and interpreter agencies. This list contains an interpreter’s name, email, language(s) spoken, and the court area the interpreter works in.
The national list is provided to the following groups on request:
The CR will provide a list of interpreters located in the area where the court or tribunal hearing is to be heard. If no interpreter is available in the local area, interpreters from other areas will be included.
If you don’t want your contact details to appear on the national list, you can let us know by email.
Minimum payment of three hours
The Ministry’s Standard Terms don’t include a minimum payment policy. Instead, any minimum payment will need to be agreed with the Ministry at the time of booking. However, the Central Registry’s general approach will be to agree payment for a minimum of three hours for attending a court or tribunal heading. This means if your chargeable time adds to less than three hours (including any additional time, addressed below) you will instead be paid for three hours at the agreed rate.
There may be instances where you’re engaged for additional hearings within the three-hour time period while attending court or different courts. If this happens, you’ll only be paid the amount agreed at the time of booking.
Payment of additional time
If you’re required to provide interpreter services for longer than the expected duration in your booking confirmation, please record the additional duration on your timesheet. When you invoice the Ministry, you’ll need to provide an explanation of the additional time and round it to the nearest 15 minutes. The Ministry pays for additional time in 15-minute increments. Your timesheet will need to be signed off by a court staff member.
Payment in the event of cancellation and cases that don’t proceed as expected
If a hearing is unexpectedly cancelled or rescheduled, you’ll be paid according to the terms set out in our Standard Terms.
The charges you’ll be able to claim will depend on how much notice we gave you about the cancelled or rescheduled booking – whether it was more than, or less than, two working days. We measure this time in full working days, excluding the day of notice and the day of the scheduled hearing.
For the full definition of working days and our cancellation terms please read our Standard Terms.
Payment in the case of a confirmed breach of the Standard Terms
In the case of a confirmed breach and remedial action, the Ministry will consider each case and make payment in accordance with the Standard Terms.
Where to go
Make sure you arrive on time. You’re required to arrive 15 minutes before the hearing is scheduled to begin, and you’ll be paid for this time. Your confirmation email will have all the details, including the date, time and location. Most tribunal hearings are held at the local District Court.
Parking near some courts is limited, so if you’re driving in, make sure you leave enough time to find a park.
What to do if you’re feeling unwell
If you’re unwell and cannot make it to court, please let us know as soon as possible. It’s important to take care of your health and protect the health of others.
What to do if you’re running late or can no longer attend
Phone: 0800 COURTS (0800 268 787) as soon as you know you’ll be late or can’t attend.
Check the location of the hearing and start time on arrival
Bring the confirmation email with you and go to the main public counter on arrival at the court. Sometimes the hearing room and start time can change on the day. Court staff will help you find the hearing room and tell you about any changes.
Security in courts and tribunals
The Ministry has staff on hand to ensure the personal safety of people who attend court. You can talk to a Ministry staff member (either security or court staff) on the day of the hearing about any safety concerns you may have.
Alternatively, you can raise any safety concerns by emailing us and quoting the case reference number.
If urgent, you should call 0800 COURTS (0800 268 787) and ask to speak to the case manager for the court or tribunal hearing.
Submitting invoices and timesheets
You need to complete and submit an invoice and timesheet after a hearing.
You must sign your timesheet and have it approved by court staff. To get approval, report to a case manager or the main counter after the hearing has finished.
Terminology used in a court or hearing
Most courts and tribunals use specific words and language (terminology).
Recordings of hearings
Most hearings record the interpretation and the judge may call for a transcription.
The interpreter’s oath or affirmation
A witness giving evidence in a court or tribunal hearing is asked to swear an oath or make an affirmation first. If you’re interpreting for a witness, you’ll also be asked to swear an oath or make an affirmation.
By swearing an oath or making an affirmation, you’re making a promise that your interpretation of the evidence is true and correct. If you knowingly make a false oath or affirmation, you commit perjury and may face criminal charges.
An oath is a declaration made using a religious book or administered in a way that the person giving the oath declares to be binding on them. An affirmation is an alternative declaration for people who don’t want to take a religious oath.
The court registrar administers the oath or affirmation. This will be done for you first, as you’ll be required to interpret the oath or affirmation for the witness. The registrar will read the appropriate script for the oath or affirmation. You’ll be required to indicate your agreement to the oath or affirmation.
Type of interpretation in a court or tribunal hearing
Interpreters usually provide consecutive face-to-face interpretation rather than simultaneous interpretation in Aotearoa New Zealand courts and tribunals.
Consecutive interpretation means the speaker pauses at the end of each segment to allow the interpreter to repeat that segment in the second language. Simultaneous interpretation is when the interpreter interprets as the speaker speaks. The speaker doesn’t stop at regular intervals; this allows arguments to flow as they would if the interpreter weren’t there.
Simultaneous interpretation is not used very often in Aotearoa New Zealand because it requires recording equipment that courts and tribunals don’t have. However, the presiding officer may sometimes request it, such as for a lawyer’s opening or closing address or the judge’s summing up. Where simultaneous interpretation is to be used, the court will set up the necessary equipment, or give you the material to be interpreted in advance.
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