Plan to cut spending on court interpreters leads to farce
Rethink prompted after solicitors resort to Google Translate to understand their clients
A defendant dubbed a "pervert" by mistake, a rabbit applying to be a Czech language specialist and solicitors using the Google Translate website to understand their clients: the debacle surrounding court interpreters has had its amusing moments.
Now the situation has apparently become so serious that both the Commons Justice Select Committee and the National Audit Office have confirmed that they may investigate the new private contract.
In February, the Ministry of Justice decided to replace the ad hoc system under which interpreters were hired as and when needed. They hoped a single private contract with Applied Language Solutions (ALS) would slash the £60m annual bill by a third.
The decision led to a boycott by many interpreters, outraged at what they described as "woefully inadequate" wages from ALS, which is owned by the support services company Capita. The result has been a host of adjourned trials and some that have collapsed. A retrial was ordered three days into a burglary case at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London when it emerged that the Romanian interpreter had muddled the words "beaten" and "bitten".
Judge David Radford, who presides at Snaresbrook, said recently that some cases had been "badly affected".
In April, the barrister Andrew Dallas said it might be quicker for him to learn Czech when an interpreter failed to turn up at Bradford Crown Court to translate for his client, who was accused of attempted murder.
In another case, a Vietnamese translator was told to make a 560-mile round-trip from Newcastle for an eight-minute hearing at South-East Suffolk Magistrates' Court. Solicitors at the court in Ipswich complained that they were sometimes forced to use the internet to translate.
Neil Saunders, who was defending a Vietnamese client accused of growing cannabis, said no translator turned up at four previous hearings. "Farcical is not the right word. It's actually a tragedy," he said.
In other examples, a man charged with perverting justice was told he was "a pervert", while a volunteer had to be pulled from the public gallery to translate for a Slovak defendant. To make a point, a Czech interpreter, Marie Adamova, applied to register her rabbit, Jajo, with ALS. He was promptly sent a dozen emails by the company.
Last week, the National Register of Public Service Interpreters told the Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke: "The concerns we referred to in February have not gone away. Indeed, the position now appears to be worsening almost daily, to the detriment of both professional interpreters and, equally importantly in our view, to the efficient and fair administration of public service across most of the justice sector."
A spokesman for ALS said yesterday: "ALS is happy to co-operate fully with any review though has not, to date, been approached on that basis by any of the bodies mentioned."
The Ministry of Justice insisted: "We have now seen a sustained improvement in performance. There are now only a tiny handful of cases each day when an interpreter job is unfilled.
"Disruption to court business and complaints have reduced significantly. Close to 3,000 interpreters are now working under this contract."
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor are reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Giorgio Armani criticises the way some gay men dress saying 'a man has to be a man'
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor are reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
'Jihadi John': Isis executioner Mohammed Emwazi wanted to wage jihad in Somalia until his friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
Parma, Missouri: 80 per cent of town's police quit after first black mayor is elected
Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
£16000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued expansion, an ...
£65000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A long-established, tech...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£55000 - £60000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Experienced Software Dev...