Virtual presence, ethics, and videoconference interpreting: insights from court settings

Devaux, Jerome (2017). Virtual presence, ethics, and videoconference interpreting: insights from court settings. In: Valero-Garcés, Carmen and Tipton, Rebecca eds. Ideology, Ethics and Policy Development in Public Service Interpreting and Translation. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.


This article focuses on ethical issues arising from the use of videoconference interpreting in courts in England and Wales. It draws on a theoretical framework informed by Camayd-Freixas (2013) and four paradigms of ethics, namely: pre-existing rules, consequentialism, moral sentiments, and virtue ethics. The ethical problems and inner conflicts experienced by Camayd-Freixas allow parallels to be drawn with the situation in England and Wales where the court interpreter’s Code of Professional Conduct does not provide any specific guidelines on Videoconference Interpreting (VCI). Questions arise as to the nature of perceived and actual ethical issues that occur in VCI, compared to face-to-face interpreted court hearings, which may also be affected by VCI in mode A (when the interpreter is present in the court room) or VCI in mode B (when the interpreter is with the witness or defendant at a remote location). The discussion is supported by findings from three semi-structured interviews conducted with court interpreters in England and Wales. This article argues that specific ethical issues arise in VCI (in mode A and/or B), and as court interpreters tend to prioritise a deontological approach when they rationalise ethical issues, they are ill-equipped to respond to such issues as they occur.

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