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Solicitor criticises man's jail sentence after Shropshire court's interpreters problem

North Shropshire | News | Published:

A Latvian man spent four weeks in prison for an offence that should normally have carried a community punishment, because of problems with court interpreters in Shropshire, a lawyer has said.

Rolands Etjantens, 25, pleaded guilty on December 8 to an offence of common assault on his ex-partner, but was remanded in custody by magistrates while he waited to be assessed by the probation service to see if he was suitable for community punishment.

For Etjantens, Mr Chris Grainger said that magistrates on December 8 had feared the defendant would return to the home of the victim, who was herself under a curfew order for another offence and had refused to grant him bail.

However, when Etjantens, who was of previous good character with no previous offences, reappeared in Telford magistrates on Wednesday the probation service had failed to carry out a report because they could not find an interpreter.

"Through no fault of his own he's now been in custody since December 8 on a matter that the justices consider suitable for a community punishment," said Mr Grainger.

"It's four weeks for a matter which does not pass the custody threshold, because he's Latvian and had no place to stay," he added.

Mr Grainger said that Etjantens' lack of English also meant he was not suitable for unpaid work in the community or supervision by the probation service as these would also require translators.

He said that since arriving in the UK, the defendant had been living with friends around Shropshire and his work had involved being transported to different locations.

District Judge Andrew King sentenced Etjantens, who has no fixed address, to 42 days in prison, meaning that he would be released within a couple of days.

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Judge King said a custodial sentence for the December 6 assault was "inevitable".

Prosecuting, Mrs Kate Price, said that Etjantens had gone to the home of his former girlfriend in Market Drayton after the couple had separated after three years together.

Mrs Price said that Etjantens had seemed drunk but his behaviour was "normal". However, after 30 minutes of asking why they could no longer be together he had slapped her several times and pushed her down on the bed before finally lighting a cigarette.

The court was told that when the victim had told the police Etjantens had threatened to kill her, telling her he "never forgets".

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Etjantens was also ordered to a pay a £80 victim surcharge and was given an indefinite restraining order to keep away from the victim and her home.

Steven Meredith, a solicitor at Terry Jones Solicitors in Telford, said: "This set of circumstances is something that does not happen very often, if at all.

"The probation service can and often do offer community punishment to no English speaking offenders. The probation service will provide interpreters for rehabilitative and punishment programmes.

"The likely reason that this offender has been in custody is that he had no address. I suspect that as he has been remanded in custody for so long, he had effectively served his time."

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