The applicants were charged before the German courts with the commission of various criminal offences. Since they were not sufficiently familiar with German language, they were assisted by an interpreter. After conviction, they were ordered, amongst other things, to pay the costs of the proceedings, including the interpretation costs.
The applicants considered that the obligation to pay interpretation costs violates their right to have free assistance of an interpreter.
Having examined the meaning of Article 6(3)(e), the Court noted that it entails for anyone who cannot speak or understand the language used in court, the right to receive free assistance of an interpreter, without subsequently claiming back from him payment of the costs thereby incurred. The Court noted that Article 6(3)(e) of the Convention cannot be interpreted in a way that the accused person may be required to pay the interpretation costs once he has been convicted. The Court considered that such interpretation would deprive right to a free assistance of an interpreter much of its effect, because it would leave in existence the disadvantages that an accused who does not understand or speak the language used in court suffers as compared with an accused who is familiar with that language.
The Court also noted the right to the free assistance of an interpreter extends to the translation or interpretation of all those documents or statements in the proceedings instituted against him which it is necessary for him to understand in order to have the benefit of a fair trial.
In the present case the applicants were required to pay the costs of interpretation which was necessary for them to be able to participate in the trial effectively. Therefore the Court concluded that their right to free assistance of the interpreter had been violated.