Friday, 22 July 2011

Private Eye, issue 1293, 22nd July 2011

Lost for words

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has chosen a language agency for the outsourcing of court interpreting services which will be horribly familiar to Eye readers.
Yes, the supposedly cash-saving scheme will see all interpreting in courts in England and Wales handed to Applied Language Solutions (ALS), an agency so unpopular with language professionals that it faced a boycott and a legal challenged to its deal with four police forces in North West England (Eyes passim).
The Professional Interpreters Alliance was prepared to take that case to judicial review, but in March, before it reached court, the police caved in and admitted that thanks to its terrible relationship with people who actually do the work, ALS “might not be able to supply interpreters for every assignment of the same qualify and within the same time constraints as had been supplied under the previous arrangements.”
Not that this seemed to worry ALS boss Gavin Wheeldon. When the new deal was announced last week he boasted: “We have already achieved cost savings of up to 70 percent for existing customers within the criminal justice system”.
The Professional Interpreters Alliance noted in a submission to the MoJ that the desire to have all languages serviced at low cost by interpreters within 25 miles is “unrealistic” as “the use of commercial intermediaries will never make rare languages less rare”. As well as offering worse pay and conditions than registered interpreters were used to when dealing directly with the courts, ALS has been criticised for using linguists who are not registered public service interpreters.
The Scottish government made a similar decision two years ago, outsourcing the supply of interpreters for Scottish, the Procurator Fiscal Service and the NHS to a single company, Glasgow-based Global Language Services. Pay rates for interpreters were cut, travel expenses pinched… and yet figures released in April showed that court interpreting costs had doubled to £1.25m. Scottish lawyers and justice campaigners have criticised GLS for using unqualified interpreters in trials. Just last week, a rape and attempted murder trial was halted in Aberdeen after questions were raised about the accuracy of the Polish interpreter, both in asking questions and relaying the accused’s replies. The judge said the delay was “an unfortunate and unsatisfactory state of affairs”.

Private Eye, issue 1293, 22nd July 2011, Page 32.

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