Chaotic start for company that clinched multimillion pound deal to provide translators for courts and inquests


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The company that clinched the multimillion pound deal to provide translators for courts and inquests is being monitored daily after a chaotic start to its contract, the Ministry of Justice said today.

Applied Language Solutions (ALS) has come under fire after repeated complaints about interpreters failing to turn up and money wasted through court delays and cancellations.

There have also been several farcical moments, including a judge ordering a retrial of a burglary prosecution after a Romanian interpreter confused the words “beaten” and “bitten”.

ALS was set a 98 per cent success rate by the MoJ, which was defined by a translator turning up to a job and completing it.

According to MoJ figures today, it had achieved 65 per cent in February, 82 per cent in March and 90 per cent in April.

ALS was founded in 2003 by Gavin Wheeldon, who launched the company out of his back bedroom. He appeared on BBC2’s Dragon’s Den, unsuccessfully attempting to persuade its entrepreneurs to invest in his firm. Despite that setback, it now has 130 full-time staff and an annual turnover of more than £10m.

When it won the contract, it argued that it would cut the £60m yearly cost of providing translators by one-third.

An MoJ spokesman said yesterday: “We continue to monitor performance on a daily basis.

“However, the contract is now delivering an effective service and we expect to see improvements in the coming months.”

He added: “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 substantially.”

Over the three-month period ALS received 26,059 requests for translators covering 142 languages. Four languages accounted for more than a third of requests: Polish, Romanian, Urdu and Lithuanian.