See the following for updates on the situation with interpreters’ contracts in the UK. A petition against outsourcing by the Ministry of Justice to Applied Language Solutions is located here.
- “ALS’s ‘misleading’ signs” (December 2011)
- “ALS Well?” – Applied Language Solutions’ Lucrative Deal with the Ministry of Justice
- “‘Major pay cut’ for court interpreters in Lincolnshire” (August 2011)
- Police Rip Up Contract with Interpreter Agency after Claims it Was Hampering Investigations
- MoJ in Line of Fire over Interpreters Contract
- Defence Solicitors Warn MoJ over Interpreter Outsourcing
- Written Ministerial Statements, UK Parliament – Interpretation and Translation Services
Language interpreters used by four police forces in north-west England are refusing to work for the sub-par agency that won the contract — cut-rate outsourcing once again goes awry….
- Speakers Cornered — Private Eye, Issue 1280, 21 January 2011 – Page 30 (Criminal Justice Roundup)
- Row erupts over police interpreters — Catherine Baksi, Law Society Gazette, 3 February 2011.
- See also: IAPTI Support for Professional Interpreters’ Alliance Petition to UK Ministry of Justice
Row erupts over police interpreters
Thursday 03 February 2011 by Catherine Baksi
Detainees at police stations in four areas of the north-west are at risk of miscarriages of justice due to the police forces’ use of inadequate interpreters, the Gazette has been told.
The Professional Interpreters Alliance (PIA) has been granted permission to begin a judicial review of a decision by police authorities in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria to outsource their interpreting services and enter an exclusive agreement with Applied Language Solutions (ALS).
PIA, which represents the interests of interpreters who are registered with the National Register of Public Service Interpreters, alleges in its judicial review claim that commercial agencies such as ALS ‘compromise standards of quality of service by the use of unqualified interpreters’.
ALS denies the claims.
Rob Taberner, police station representative for Bolton firm Fieldings Porter, said that since the new contracts began in August, people who are not properly qualified have been sent to the police station to interpret.
‘They sometimes cannot translate properly and do not understand simple legal terms, which is a fundamental part of their job,’ he said.
Where the police cannot get an agency interpreter before the custody time limit expires, Taberner said he had heard of detainees being charged and sent to court without a proper understanding of why they were there. ‘It’s a farcical situation that could lead to miscarriages of justice,’ said Taberner. ‘They want a professional job done on the cheap.’
Lina Tsui-Cheung, an associate at Manchester firm ABM, said she had noticed a similar decline in standards since the new contracts began in August, and her firm had experienced ‘a lot of difficulties’ under the new arrangement.
‘The agents are of poor competence. It appears to me that what is translated is not always correct, and clients have told me that they are not always able to understand the interpreter, or what they are being asked,’ she said.
An ALS spokeswoman said: ‘The interpreters providing interpreting services to the criminal justice system have grave professional responsibilities. Work allocated to interpreters by Applied Language Solutions is done under the terms of the National Framework Agreement, which details the qualifications required to undertake legal interpreting assignments in the UK.’
She added that it was ‘not true’ that ALS interpreters struggle to understand basic terms.
Ian Kelcey, chair of the Law Society’s criminal law committee, stressed the importance of properly qualified translators. ‘Accurate interpretation at the police station is absolutely vital to avoid miscarriages of justice,’ he said.
In their acknowledgment of service of the judicial review claim, the police authorities said they had undertaken a ‘rigorous procurement exercise’ before awarding the contracts to ALS, which was ranked highest by the panel.
They said: ‘The central aims of initiating the procurement process were the freeing up of administration resources, matching availability to demand, and control over the budget, without compromising the quality of the interpreters provided.’
The forces said they were satisfied that the interpreters engaged ‘would be provided as and when required and that they would be competent’.