18 February 2012
Courts left in 'chaos' by interpreter mix-up
A new system to appoint interpreters for court cases has been temporarily abandoned by the Government just two weeks in, after it prompted chaos in courts up and down the country.
A number of cases in Northampton’s Crown Court and magistrates’ court have been delayed or adjourned since new contractors, Applied Language Solutions, were awarded a national contract to manage interpreter bookings.
But interpreters have turned their backs on the money-saving move as they ‘refuse to work for peanuts’, leaving ALS struggling to cope with demand.
The Ministry of Justice admitted teething problems and suspended the contract until February 24, allowing courts to revert back to the old system of directly booking their interpreters, who will be offered previous pay rates.
Zaneta Krasilnikova, a self-employed Lithuanian interpreter from Duston, Northampton, stopped working for the courts when she discovered her rates would drop from £28 an hour to £20 an hour and her travel costs would be cancelled.
She said: “I use to work seven days a week for the courts. When the ALS contract started it was no longer worth me doing the job. There are not many Lithuanian interpreters in the country and so very often I would be hired by courts outside of the county.
“But because they don’t pay travel costs it worked out that I would earn minus £1.32 an hour for doing a job in Birmingham. It’s an insult.
“I have to prove to the Ministry of Justice that this is not working. They can’t just use us when things go wrong and drop us again in a few weeks.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “This new contract will save at least £18 million a year on the cost of interpretation and translation, a reduction of almost a third, but will ensure that high quality interpreters and translators are still available to those in need.”
A campaign has been launched by organisations linked with interpreters asking people to boycott the new contract.