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In interpreting teenage slang for the jury, what could Mark Paltenghi do? Your honour, this is bare hard to understand: Laughter in court as barrister has to translate defendants’ teenage slang into plain English
A barrister had to translate text messages sent between teenagers into plain English in court after they included slang like ‘bare’ – meaning really- and ‘bait’ – meaning blatant – for the judge.
During the shooting spree in Dagenham, the group are said to have sent text messages to each other, which were read out by the prosecution along with the ‘translations’.
In one message, sent by the youngest defendant who is 16, to a contact called ‘female boss’, he wrote: ‘Hurry up I’ve got bare haters around me now.’
Prosecutor Mark Paltenghi – in his fifties – informed the jury: ‘Next to it in italics you have it re-written.
‘It means: ‘Hurry up, I’ve got a lot of people who don’t particularly like me here.’
Another text read: ‘Hurry up I’ve got a strap on me, this is bare bait’.
Mr Paltenghi told the jury: ‘We believe this means: ‘Hurry up, I’ve got a gun on me, and this is really risky’.’
Defendants Scott Stokes, 20, his brother Jason, 18, Anne-Marie Madden, 25, and 16-year-old who cannot be named for legal reasons, burst into laughter.
Jurors also giggled when Judge Patricia Lees asked the defence barristers: ‘Do you agree with these translations?’
(First seen in Metro headed I’m a barrister, innit)
LATER NOTE: Just in, the report of a witness speaking Sierra Leone creole (Krio) for an hour before anyone in court realized it was not an acoustics problem.
At Language Log, Mark Liberman has a post dated 28.11 and headed Plebgate judgment, in which he reports on his experience as an expert witness, with Peter French appearing for the other side (Mitchell’s).
As is widely known, Andrew Mitchell, the government chief whip, was stopped by police from cycling through a pedestrian entrance in Downing Street and is said to have told the policeman ‘Best you learn your fucking place – you don’t run this fucking government – you’re fucking plebs.’
The language aspect was that there were arguments that the police officer in questio, Toby Rowland, was thought unlikely to invent such an expression, and Mitchell was thought likely to use it.
Mark Liberman had to report on whether the time of the exchange recorded by CCTV cameras was long enough for the words to have been spoken. Both he and Peter French came to the conclusion that the time was long enough. Liberman quotes Archie Bland in The Guardian:
You couldn’t help but be lost in admiration for [Mitting’s] forensic command of the detail: you’d need a memory palace to keep it all straight. And yet it almost all seemed irrelevant. A judgment that took over an hour to read boiled down to the fact that two phonetic experts judged that Mitchell would have had time to say the “toxic phrases”, and that he had told his deputy that he didn’t know what he had said very soon after.
More from the case – full report here – in the Language Log post. Also the commenters get very involved in forms of address in court, starting with whether it was right for Mark to address an English judge as ‘My Lord’.