Using inappropriately qualified SL interpreter was infringement of Article 6 of human rights

In Re R [2014] EWCC B41 (Fam), 14 March 2014, the County Court adjourned the local authority’s application for a care order because they had used an inappropriately qualified sign language interpreter during the social work assessment of deaf parents. The Court ruled that the court could not safely rely on the social work assessment, as to do so would infringe the parents’ right to a fair trial (Article 6).

Despite going to a reputable agency, the sign language interpreter instructed by the local authority was insufficiently qualified and had no previous experience of interpreting for during a crucial assessment. The father found it difficult to understand the interpreter’s signing.

The court adjourned the care proceedings pending further assessment of the parents and considered Re C (A child) [2014] EWCA Civ 128, where the Court of Appeal gave guidance about the correct approach in care proceedings where one or both parents are Deaf.

Re R is a useful reminder of the complex needs of Deaf parents and how these must be identified and addressed early on in care proceedings to avert possible infringement of Article. It also highlights the role and support that deaf relay interpreters provide to profoundly deaf parents engaged in care proceedings, both in court and during the assessment process.


Deaf, hubby to Rachel, dad to Corey, Libby and Emily, Solicitor, Lecturer in Legal Practice at University of South Wales, PhD student at University of Leicester.

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