UK Interpreters Boycotting Applied Language Solutions Agency: Pisspoor Rates, Mishandling of Personal Data, and Unqualified Interpreters

See the following for updates on the situation with interpreters’ contracts in the UK. A petition against outsourcing by the Ministry of Justice is located here.

The latest news (February 2012):
Court interpreters row raises spectre of miscarriages of justice
20 February 2012
MoJ admits ‘teething problems’ with interpreters
17 February 2012
Courts left in ‘chaos’ by interpreter mix-up
18 February 2012
Courts given green light to hire own interpreters as ALS struggles to cope
16 February 2012
Court chaos follows interpreter change
13 February 2012
MoJ interpreting hub a ‘false economy’
09 February 2012
Lawyers slam Government’s new court interpreting system
16 February 2012
Language barrier
16 February 2012

Discussion on Radio 5 live
starts just after minute 52

BBC Lincolnshire Radio
1:06:55 – 1:15:50 and 2:05:50 – 2:14:05


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.

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’.

2 Responses to UK Interpreters Boycotting Applied Language Solutions Agency: Pisspoor Rates, Mishandling of Personal Data, and Unqualified Interpreters

  1. Rakesh Khambhaita says:

    I just received this email from APPLIED LANGUAGES – Although I refuse to participate – I don’t see what impact your bolg is having on them – Please help:

    Please do not reply to this email. If you have any questions please email If you wish to unsubscribe click this link.
    Interpreter bonus payments
    The roll out of the Ministry of Justice Language Services Framework Agreement with Applied Language Solutions has commenced, and the remainder of MoJ organisations and many more police forces will be migrating their services to the framework from 30th January 2012.
    We’d like to reward our interpreter base, both old and new, for the dedication and commitment in getting this contract off to a great start. Therefore, following successful assessment to work on MoJ assignments, all interpreters who complete a minimum of 25 MoJ interpreting jobs between now and 30 March 2012 will be given a one-off additional payment of £250.
    Those interpreters who have already completed 25 jobs under the new framework will also be paid this bonus (at the end of March 2012) in recognition of their work.
    If you are not already registered for assessment there is plenty of opportunity to do so in January. Please see the list of dates and locations below. Venue details can be found at
    • Birmingham – 09 Jan 2012
    • Leeds – 09 Jan 2012
    • London – 12 Jan 2012
    • Nottingham – 11 Jan 2012
    • Manchester – 11 Jan 2012
    • Sheffield – 10 Jan 2012
    Please call to book for your language. Spaces are limited.
    And that’s not all we are offering…
    ALS finder’s bonus programme
    For many years, Applied Language Solutions has rewarded staff members and freelance linguists through its “Finder’s Bonus” programme. This is something that we have now extended to interpreters in relation to MoJ assignments for the next six months, as the framework gains momentum and more organisations around the country come on board.
    Every assessed interpreter who introduces another interpreter to sit the assessment between 01 January 2012 and 30 June 2012 will receive a full refund for their own assessment fee if the person referred is successful in their language assessment.
    Additionally, for every subsequent interpreter that you then introduce to Applied Language Solutions, who sits and passes their assessment, you will be rewarded with a Finder’s Bonus of £50.

  2. Pingback: MoJ and ALS, a risky match | Squirrel Translations

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