A Quebec Man's Drug Trafficking Conviction Was Thrown Out Because The Trial Was In French
Defective equipment meant translations were often whispered in the accused's ear. There'll be a new trial.
In what seems like a story ripped from The Onion'sfront page, a Quebec man's drug trafficking conviction in Montreal was successfully appealed for a new trial on November 11 because his language rights were violated.
But this wasn't a French-language issue — it was the accused's rights to an English trial that were violated.
According to court documents, in 2018, Soninder Dhingra was found guilty of "trafficking and importing large quantities of cocaine and crystal meth and of criminally conspiring to traffic such substances. [...] He was sentenced to a total of 15 years' imprisonment."
Upon appeal, it was found that "serious lapses with respect to the appellant's language rights occurred throughout the trial proceedings" during the original trial.
While the courts agreed to hold the trial in English, the judge informed the accused that the witnesses would be testifying in French. Lawyers agreed that the trial would be "held in English with agreed simultaneous interpretation of the testimony of any witness testifying in French."
However, the court documents state that the "equipment to carry out simultaneous interpretation and to record it appears to have been defective" so that "part of the interpretation was again carried out by whispering to the appellant."
This simultaneous whispering seems to have caused a ton of confusion for stenographers. Because of this, the transcription of the case was "difficult" to decipher.
Despite the request for an English trial, it was "in fact almost exclusively held in French, with simultaneous interpretation being provided to the appellant, at times by way of whispering. Crown counsel and the judge expressed themselves mainly in French throughout the proceedings."
The court concluded that "the breaches of the appellant's language rights at trial, taken as a whole, are serious and substantial. [...] [The Court] would therefore allow the appeal, quash the convictions and order a new trial."