Sunday 11 February 2024

No interpreter leads to Powys drink driving case delay

11th February 2024

No interpreter leads to Powys drink driving case delay

A man accused of drink driving in Powys will return to court later this month after his case was adjourned.

Vinish Wilson, 37, had been due to appear at Welshpool Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, February 6, but the case was put off due to an interpreter being required. […]

Magistrates adjourned the case to February 20. He was granted unconditional bail until that date.

Thursday 1 February 2024

Welshpool cannabis factory man's sentencing adjourned

1st February 2024

Welshpool cannabis factory man's sentencing adjourned

A man convicted of growing a cannabis farm worth around £500,000 that was discovered inside the former County Times offices in Welshpool must wait another week before he is sentenced.

Dino Marku, who speaks limited English, pleaded guilty last month to producing the Class B drug after police seized 246 plants from the empty property next door to Greggs bakery on January 11.

Caernarfon Crown Court was told on Thursday, February 1, that Mold Magistrates’ Court had not told staff that an Albanian translator was needed to be present for the sentencing hearing.

The 39-year-old appeared via video link from HMP Berwyn, near Wrexham, alongside an Albanian-speaking prisoner who had volunteered to help him understand what the judge was about to tell him.

When the prosecution barrister highlighted to the court that the prisoner was not an accredited interpreter, the case for sentencing was adjourned.

The court heard that Marku’s barrister Alexa Carrier was also unable to talk with him before the sentencing hearing because the prisoner was not an official translator.

His Honour Judge Huw Rees told Ms Carrier: “You’ve taken the right approach. That is entirely in conjunction with your professional position.”

Speaking to the prisoner, the judge said: "I understand your good motives but I’m afraid the case cannot carry on without an official interpreter."[...]

Wednesday 31 January 2024

PQs: 31 January 2024

Amendment 18

Victims and Prisoners Bill - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 31 January 2024.

Baroness Coussins Crossbench

My Lords, I will speak to the four amendments in the second group in my name, which are supported by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds and the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. These amendments concern the issue of interpreting and translation in relation to the victims’ code. I gave an outline of my case at Second Reading, so I shall not of course repeat that today.

Since then, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, has been kind enough to meet me to discuss my amendments. I am very grateful to him for taking the time to hear me out. I should first declare my interests as co-chair of the all-party group on modern languages, and vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. I am indebted to the chartered institute, to the National Register of Public Service Interpreters and to the Bell Foundation for their helpful background briefings, constructive proposals and hard evidence of why these amendments are needed.

Amendment 18 adds an extra specification to the face of the Bill about what the victims’ code must do, in addition to what is already listed in Clause 2(3). The current interim code states that victims have the right of

“access to interpretation and translation services” if needed.

As a technical aside, the word currently used in the code is “interpretation” rather than “interpreting”. However, I have used the word “interpreting” as it is the more accurate word and the word already used in other MoJ contexts. I have discussed with the Minister why this word should be brought into the text of the code itself. In case other noble Lords are beginning to nod off and think that I am splitting hairs unbearably, I will explain. The word “interpretation” implies analysis and paraphrasing, whereas the word “interpreting” explicitly means repeating in another language exactly, accurately and only what the speaker has said, without any commentary, advice or suggestions—all of which would be totally unprofessional and anathema to any properly trained and qualified interpreter.

With the technical detail over, I go back to Amendment 18. It is vital that this overarching requirement be enshrined in the Bill and not left to the code, guidance or regulations. As I said at Second Reading, it is completely unacceptable that unqualified, underqualified or inexperienced individuals should be used as interpreters, especially in situations which are dangerous, sensitive, emotional or otherwise challenging for victims.

We know from thoroughly documented experience in the criminal justice system, and other areas of the public sector such as the health service, that a general or vague commitment to interpreting and translation services does not always deliver what is needed or required in practice. If it is left to guidance only, we also know from the NHS experience that there is no monitoring of whether the guidance is observed. Public service interpreters are specialist, qualified and trained professionals. A member of the family does not count. A teenage child certainly does not count. A neighbour does not count. A court official who happens to speak the same language at home does not count. Google Translate certainly does not count.

Put simply, fair access to justice for non-English speakers should be a legal right, not a guideline, recommendation or piece of good practice advice. If the need for a professionally qualified interpreter is stated only in a code or piece of guidance, it is in practice effectively optional. If it is on the face of the Bill, it becomes mandatory and enables us to put a stop to bogus or unqualified people pretending to be interpreters. In the world of public service delivery, that makes all the difference.

We know from various surveys, including one commissioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, that awareness that the code even exists is at very low levels. How much lower must the awareness levels be for people with poor or no English?

At the same time, different scenarios might legitimately demand different levels of qualification or experience. This is why the MoJ, in the light of discussions that I held with the Minister’s predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, over the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, embarked on a thorough independent review of the qualifications and experience required of court and tribunal interpreters. I believe that it is close to publication, in time for the issuing of the next invitation to tender for contracted-out language services.

So please let us not fall into the trap with this Bill of the left hand of the MoJ not knowing what the right hand is up to. Let us have a coherent system, without contradictory provisions for language services in the criminal justice system. A victim giving a witness statement in her home, on the street or in the workplace must have the same right of access to appropriately qualified and experienced professional interpreting as the victim giving evidence in court.

My amendment does not propose specifying exactly which qualification for which type or what level of complexity of case we are talking about, as this will vary and must be carefully worked out in a detailed discussion involving all stakeholders. I learned my lesson from the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, that that degree of detail is not appropriate for a Bill—but it is vital to be absolutely clear, as in my amendment, that a non-negotiable bottom line must be that only specialist qualified and experienced professionals be engaged.

I would hope that, when it comes to regulations, the MoJ, whether dealing with courts or victims in other scenarios, will at least match the criteria adopted by the police-approved interpreters and translators scheme, known as PAIT, which uses the level 6 diploma in public service interpreting as a default standard and has adopted the code of conduct agreed by the National Register of Public Service Interpreters. At the moment, neither the police scheme nor the MoJ currently requires interpreters to be on the national register, despite its expertise in standard setting. But the CPS does, so the requirement is potentially worth keeping under review.

The next two amendments in this group, Amendments 25 and 33, simply tidy up and complete the need to be explicit and avoid the all too frequent outcome of overlooking the needs of victims whose first language is not English. Amendment 25 would guarantee that, when the draft of the new victims’ code is published, it is published in a range of languages in addition to English. We know that the current version is available in 15 other languages, but approximately 300 languages are spoken in the UK. I am not suggesting for a minute that we have translations permanently on the shelves in all these languages, but it would be sensible to have some built-in bespoke flexibility to determine at the time how many and which other languages would be helpful.

For example, we know that there are some rare languages for which there is not even a public service interpreting qualification, even though there is a demand for those languages in the public sector. The national register has strict protocols on the criteria for engaging interpreters in these circumstances. Demand may vary significantly from one area to another, so flexibility is essential, and my amendment would ensure that this is not overlooked.

Similarly, Amendment 33 would simply require criminal justice bodies providing services in any police area, when taking steps to promote awareness of the code, to include in their target groups those whose first language is not English. Until that becomes second nature, which evidence from the Bell Foundation and others shows us it is not, the obligation needs to be in the Bill.

The fourth and last of my amendments, Amendment 47, is to Clause 11(2)(b), which deals with the guidance on code awareness and the way in which information is collected. The subsection specifies that particular attention be paid to data relating to

“children or individuals who have protected characteristics within the meaning of the Equality Act”.

My amendment would add to that list the words

“and people who have a first language other than English”.

This is because spoken language, or linguistic diversity, is not one of the protected characteristics under our equality legislation, and yet it is self-evident—again, from Bell Foundation research and much else—that inequalities, ranging from lack of information to a diminished quality of justice and human rights, may often still occur. Once again, unless proactively and explicitly required, we will not have data to tell us for whom, how often, in what form, in what circumstances and in what languages the services of interpreters and translators are needed, and therefore what provision—in human or budgetary resources—needs to be available.

I hope the Minister will see fit to encourage His Majesty’s Government to accept all four of my amendments, as I believe they will all improve the Bill and enable the Government better to achieve what they clearly wish to achieve for the benefit of victims—all victims. I beg to move.

Tuesday 30 January 2024

PQs: 30 January 2024

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered at on 30 January 2024.

John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what the cost to the public purse was of providing language translators in (a) hospitals and (b) health centres in each year since 2010.

Andrea Leadsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

Translation and interpreting services for hospitals and health centres are commissioned by local National Health Service organisations who may hold this data.

The Department and NHS England have not estimated the potential cost to the public purse of these services used by the NHS.

Section 13G of the National Health Service Act 2006 states NHS England must have regard to the need to reduce inequalities between patients, including with respect to access to health services. NHS England guidance stipulates that where language is a problem in discussing health matters a professional interpreter should always be offered. It is the responsibility of NHS service providers to ensure interpreting and translation services are made available to their patients free at the point of delivery.

Schools: Translation Services

Department for Education written question – answered at on 30 January 2024.

John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what information her Department holds on the cost to the public purse for the translation of school materials into languages other than English in each year since 2010.

John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what information her Department holds on the cost to the public purse was for providing language translators in schools in each year since 2013.

Damian Hinds Minister of State (Education)

School funding is distributed by the department fairly, based on schools’ and pupils’ needs and characteristics. It is then for school heads and governors to decide how this money is spent, in line with their school’s context.

The department does not hold the cost and spending for translating school materials into non-English languages or providing language translators in schools. Such professional services are procured by individual schools and local authorities. Local authorities can ‘de-delegate’ funding from maintained schools in their area to meet the costs to improve the performance of underperforming pupils from ethnic minority groups and meeting the specific needs of bilingual pupils, and local authorities submit data on this spending as part of their annual returns to the department. ‘De-delegated’ funding is spent centrally by local authorities to meet costs faced by maintained schools in their area.