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Cuscani v. United-Kingdom (32771/96) [2002] ECHR 625 (24 September 2002)
The text of this case can be found on the European Court of Human Rights' HUDOC database available here.

Facts: Mr. Cuscani was arrested and remanded in custody. He pleaded guilty to charges of fraudulently evading VAT and cheating the public revenue. At the hearing on sentencing, no professional interpreter was present, although the trial judge had earlier granted a request for an interpreter. The applicant’s counsel, without consulting his client, suggested the applicant’s brother could act as interpreter, and the court agreed, if need be. However, the applicant’s brother was never requested to translate any statement during the course of the hearing. The applicant was sentenced to a total of four years’ imprisonment and disqualified from being a company director for ten years. He was refused leave to appeal.

Complaint: The applicant alleges that he did not receive a fair trial on account of the absence of interpretation at his hearing on sentencing relying on Article 6 (right to a fair trial).

Holding: The ECHR declared that the trial judge had the responsibility to verify the accused's capacity to understand the language spoken in order to determine the need to have recourse to an interpreter. Even though the conduct of the defence is essentially a matter between the defendant and his counsel, the Court affirmed that the ultimate guardian of the fairness of the proceedings is the trial judge. Consequently, the Court found a violation of Article 6.

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