21 February 2012
Court frustration over missing interpreters
A City judge has spoken of his “frustration” after he was forced to adjourn two cases because no interpreters were available. District Judge Ken Sheraton said he was unable to go ahead with two cases yesterday after interpreters failed to turn up despite requests from Peterborough Magistrates’ Court to book them for the hearings. Their absence is being attributed to cuts to their pay, which were introduced on February 1 and were agreed in a deal between Applied Language Solutions and the Ministry of Justice. Before the deal, an interpreter was guaranteed at least three hours’ pay at £80 if they attended court and then £30 per hour thereafter. They were paid £15 per hour for time spent travelling. Since February 1 interpreters are not paid for the first hour they travel and are paid £20 per hour at court. The new arrangements are being blamed for interpreters not turning up and between February 3 and 10, Peterborough Magistrates’ Court had to adjourn 12 cases for that reason.
Yesterday, one case, involving a Polish lorry driver, had to be adjourned because no Polish interpreter was available. Another case involving four Lithuanian defendants was adjourned by Judge Sheraton who said he could not even hear a bail application on behalf of the four, because he could not be sure the defendants would be able to understand their bail conditions if it were granted.
Speaking in court, Judge Sheraton said the situation was “frustrating”. He said: “This is an issue of frustration. It is regrettable that again the organisation has not been able to supply interpreters. “It makes it very difficult to proceed at a time when senior judiciary are asking that we work as swiftly as possible. “This is far from being the only case affected by this and I understand it is happening across the country. “If bail is appropriate with conditions I have to make sure defendants understand them, which is difficult without interpreters. “I am adjourning this case until Wednesday, when I hope an interpreter will be available, but I give no guarantees.”
Richard Boucher, from Hunt and Coombs Solicitors, said the problems were affecting everyone using the courts across the country. He said: “This problem is affecting everyone – defendants, defence solicitors, police, prosecutors, victims and the court system. “We are here to do a job and justice cannot be done if interpreters are not available. “There are lots of cases where people who would normally get bail are being held in custody because they cannot give solicitors instructions about their personal circumstances. “A lot of these people do not understand the British court system and it is unfair for cases to go ahead in those circumstances. It is vital defendants understand what is going on. “This has been going on for a number of weeks and it is not a happy situation. “I am not sure what the cost of the adjournments will be but I am sure the taxpayer will not be happy.”
No-one from Applied Language Solutions was available to commentthe time of going to press.