Cape Town - Allegations of serious mistakes made by a Mandarin court interpreter were highlighted in court on Friday in proceedings involving two Chinese people who had been found guilty of human trafficking for sexual purposes and of keeping a brothel.
Sentencing proceedings were to have commenced before magistrate Elsa van Zyl in the Sexual Offences Court in Parow, in Cape Town’s northern suburbs, on Friday. Instead, the defence team of advocate William King and attorney Ben Mathewson launched an application to stop the case and for the proceedings to be reviewed by the High Court.
Before the court were a Chinese man, Jiang Wang, of Kenilworth, and his female co-accused, Yiting Wong, both 32. The two were found guilty in May last year on two counts of human trafficking for sexual purposes and one of keeping a brothel.
The application was postponed to August 17 for the prosecutor to investigate the allegation of incompetence against the interpreter.
King told the court that an expert engaged by the defence had found that 140 serious errors had been made by the Mandarin interpreter during the trial. It was based on an allegedly faulty interpretation of testimony that the court had found the two to be guilty, he said.
He added that a faulty interpretation by an incompetent interpreter amounted to an unfair trial.
He said: “We request the court to immediately suspend the proceedings, and to refer the matter to the High Court on review.
“The application is based on irregularities of such a serious nature as to stop the proceedings and set them aside.
“This was not a fair trial,” he said.
He said the expert had not had the time to study the entire court record but the 140 misinterpretations he had found were “more than enough” for the court to rule that this was not a fair trial.
The expert had categorised the interpreter’s errors as missing essential information and adding incorrect information, he said. He argued that this was sufficient for both the court and the prosecution to reach the conclusion that the interpreter was incompetent.
If 140 errors were found on only a portion of the court record, the rest of the testimony “must be tainted as well”, he added.
He said the court, acting on what the incompetent interpreter had said, had convicted both accused of offences that could send them to jail for life.
As the proceedings drew to a close, King added that Wong, a married woman, had a problem with the media coverage of the case. He said a newspaper, which he did not name, had incorrectly reported that she was having an affair with Wang.