08 March 2012 by Catherine Baksi
ALS offers cash to beat interpreting boycott
The company running the controversial new courtroom interpreting service is offering cash incentives to interpreters who recruit friends, the Gazette has learned, as it emerged than nine out of 10 court interpreters are boycotting the service.
An online poll of 1,206 interpreters surveyed by campaign group Interpreters for Justice (IFJ) revealed that 90% are refusing to work for Applied Language Solutions (ALS), which was awarded the contract to provide interpreters to criminal justice agencies.
The group, set up to campaign for the contract to be cancelled, said interpreters have not signed up with ALS because of concerns about the standard of the assessment process used by the contractor.
Since the new arrangement began on 1 February, solicitors, interpreters and courts have reported problems, resulting in adjourned or cancelled hearings.
Ipswich criminal solicitor Andrew Cleal told the Gazette that a clerk at Ipswich Magistrates’ Court was last week forced to resort to Google Translate to communicate in Lithuanian details of a defendant’s next hearing.
A solicitor at the City of London Magistrates’ Court told the Gazette he was awarded a payment out of central funds for three hours’ travel and waiting time due to the non-attendance of a Romanian interpreter.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said this week there had been a ‘marked improvement’ in the service following an ‘unacceptable’ number of problems in the first weeks.
But an email sent by ALS chief executive Gavin Wheeldon to colleagues, seen by the Gazette, suggested that 65% of courts may have been affected. The email said ‘35% of all courts have not missed a single booking’. Wheeldon said that ALS is receiving 20-30 applications a day from interpreters looking to sign up with the company. To encourage new sign-ups, he said ALS is offering interpreters £250 if they recruit a friend.