The costs of legal interpreting in criminal proceedings have more than doubled in three years, according to the Swedish Court of Justice. Never before has so much money been spent on interpreting services, national broadcaster SVT reported.
Overall, the legal interpreting costs amounted to SEK 114 million ($14 million) in 2017 (immigration courts not included), up 18 percent from 2015.
"Court expenses have increased significantly over the past decade. The increase, however, has been most pronounced in recent years," Annika Rojas Wiberg of the Court of Justice told SVT.
The increase has been greatest in criminal proceedings against individuals. In the past three years, court expenses have exploded from SEK 13.7 million ($1.7 million) to SEK 30.2 million ($3.7), an increase of 120 percent.
"This follows the social development we have, not least because of increased migration, which has led to more people who require interpreting. So there is a natural correlation between social development and the cost increase," Rojas Wiberg contended.
"Expenses may vary depending on the number of people in need of an interpreter," lawyer Eva-Lena Norgren of the Södertälje District Court said.
Sweden's legal system is currently working to cut the costs. At the Court of Justice, a so-called "Interpreting Project" is underway, looking at ways of using interpreters in a more efficient way. For instance, hearings may be planned in such a way that would allow using interpreters in several trials. Furthermore, video technology is being developed to reduce travel costs, while simultaneous interpretation to shorten the hearings is also being considered.
Getting an interpreter costs a defendant nothing, which means that the expenses ultimately fall on the shoulders of Swedish taxpayers.
Anders Hansson of the Conservative Party, however, has moved to change the law by imposing the costs on the individual, be it in courts, insurance funds, immigration authorities, etc. According to Hansson, a free interpreter should be time-limited with three years, which he called a "reasonable time" to learn a language like Swedish.
"The question I raise in my bill is whether it is reasonable for the state to pay the full cost if the defendant has lived in the country for quite some time and can be assumed to be able to speak Swedish," Hansson told SVT, venturing that "untold amounts of money" are to be saved this way.
Annika Rojas Wiberg, however, defended the current state of events as an "absolute necessity."