Home Office interpreters 'reluctant to travel to NI'

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The Home Office will only use its own approved Vietnamese interpreters, a Northern Ireland court was told

Home Office interpreters are "reluctant to travel to Northern Ireland", leading to delays in a human trafficking investigation, a court has heard.

The case involves a Vietnamese man, Hung Van Nguyen, who has been in prison on remand for almost six months, after his arrest over alleged drug offences.

The prosecution has stalled while the authorities try to establish if he is a victim of human trafficking.

A scheduled Home Office with him last week had to be cancelled.

'Cannabis factory'

The details emerged in the most recent sitting of the case at Dungannon Magistrates Court, during which Mr Nguyen appeared by video link.

The 42-year-old had been living in County Tyrone before his arrest last September over an alleged cannabis factory.

He faces charges of cultivating and possessing cannabis, with intent to supply.

However, the court was told the drugs prosecution cannot proceed until human trafficking investigations are concluded, due to a special protocol in such cases.

Officials from the Home Office had been scheduled to interview Mr Nguyen in Maghaberry prison last week, but cancelled at short notice.

'Unsatisfactory'

The reason given in court was that the Home Office only uses its own approved Vietnamese interpreters, "who are reluctant to travel to Northern Ireland".

A defence lawyer criticised the position Mr Nguyen has been left in, saying his client has been in custody for a considerable period of time, during which there had been very little progress on his case.

The lawyer also pointed out that a Vietnamese interpreter had attended every hearing of the case in person, telling the court there had been no issue with his work.

A prosecution lawyer said the situation was "most unsatisfactory", but said prosecutors were bound by the human trafficking protocol.

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