Thursday, 16 February 2012

Law Gazette: "Language barrier"

Thursday 16 February 2012 by Malcolm Fowler

Language barrier
Catherine Baksi is quite right to raise the issue of interpreters, of such concern for so long to those of us in the know.
Pro bono (and with any number of colleagues from the defence, the prosecution, the police, the Probation Service, the courts service and the judiciary), I assisted my wife for 15 years in the training of legal interpreter students through a course then run at City College in Birmingham.
The training was intended to, and did, inculcate an understanding of the police investigation and court processes, and involved role plays and the running of mock courts. Almost without exception those former students then achieving accreditation acquitted themselves with great distinction, and standards were greatly enhanced.
Almost all those former students and the vast majority of accredited interpreters have refused, quite rightly, to have anything to do with Applied Language Solutions (ALS) or, for that matter, the new system, where I share their view that it is unfit for purpose. One reason is that the fees earned by them for what is, after all, an onerous and responsible profession would thereby have been more than decimated, with ALS creaming off the meaningful profit.
Another is that they have their individual reputations to consider, whereas the previous track record of ALS has been one of serial non-delivery.
Any sensible and professional defence practitioner, in keeping with the letter and the spirit of the Law Society’s practice note on the subject, will surely have nothing to do with this folly, but rather will continue to engage by reference to the National Register, and will scrutinise clinically and indeed sceptically the purported credentials of those engaged through ALS.
Many of us with specialist knowledge counselled against this; frankly, I brace myself for a return to the woeful standards or lack thereof with which we had to struggle before the setting up of the register. It is only a question of time before wheels start coming off on a regular basis. There is but grim satisfaction in then being able to say ‘we told you so’, but at least I have now put a marker down.

Malcolm Fowler, Dennings, Tipton; Law Society Council member for Birmingham and District

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