The Shrewd Officer of the Law The fateful questioning

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    In my earlier days as a criminal defense lawyer, as I participated in hearings at the police station, I had a retired officer of the law as an interpreter.

    He had worked as a detective superintendent for many years and as such he was used asking intrigue questions of the suspected persons he had to investigate.

    These habits had stuck to him, also as an interpreter. As I found out that he among the questions from the interrogation leader also put his questions, I felt that I had to put a stop to this mad inquisition. If he got the chance to continue in that manner, there would be nothing left of law and order. The poor suspect would in a blink be guilty. Above all the interpreter would claim defendant himself admitted his guilt.

    As I confronted the former detective superintendent with the fact that he, in the capacity of interpreter, had to translate what was said and nothing else, he was furious. Then the man started to shout and questioned who I was telling him what to do. I told him calmly that I was an interpreter myself and that I could speak Finnish. As I added that I had sworn to this language in court, I was almost sure that he would strangle me. After a while, however, he came to his senses and continued to translate the questions without any remarks of his own.

    As I later had this man as an interpreter, he never said a word about our confrontation. He also behaved like a real translator, never put a note into the translation that was his own.

    I can only imagine how many defendants have reached a less favorable destiny with this very shrewd former detective superintendent before my time.

    Carl Tengstrom

    About Carl Tengstrom

    Born in Turku, Finland. Native language is Swedish. Retired. Working as a freelance translator. Source languages: Swedish, Finnish, English and German.

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