Booking interpreters is one of the aspects of tribunal administration that can stumble.
If you need a interpreter for the tribunal, you will need to let the tribunal know in advance. This is best done by letter, at the point that the tribunal sends you the notice of hearing.
This can be very simple:
Smith v Jones, case number 00000001/2011: hearing date 17 May 2011
I should be grateful if you would arrange for a Portugese interpreter at this hearing to assist Mr Smith.
The tribunal will then arrange, and pay for, an interpreter.
Remember that the tribunal staff are not experts in linguistics. So if there is any possibility of confusion or difficulty – for example, you need an interpreter who speaks a particular dialect – make sure this is spelt out.
Approximately a week before the tribunal hearing, it is sensible to phone and check that an interpreter has been booked. It’s best to do this by phone, rather than letter. Occasionally, a letter confirming the booking is misinterpreted as a request for an interpreter, which the tribunal may refuse on the grounds that it is too late. This can cause the hearing to be needlessly postponed, which is rather frustrating, particularly if you have spent the weekend preparing for a three day hearing.
If your case involves multiple hearings do not assume that the tribunal will book an interpreter for the subsequent hearings. Often the tribunal will pick up on this and realise that someone who needed an interpreter in the January case management discussion will not have become fluent in time for the March merits hearing. But this is the sort of thing that can slip through the cracks.