March 12, 2012
Boss of court-translation firm Applied Language Solutions hits back after judges blast service
But dozens of complaints have been filed to the government since the contract came into force on February 1. Manchester Crown Court Judge Martin Steiger QC slammed ALS as ‘very unsatisfying’ – hitting out after the sentencing of a sex offender from India was postponed twice when interpreters for the agency failed to turn up. He was so outraged he said he had considered putting the firm in the dock for contempt. Judge Steiger said there had been no way to contact the interpreters who failed to attend the two previous hearings and ALS had not been able to explain their absence. The sentencing went ahead on the third attempt, when an interpreter attended. A trial at Leeds Crown Court had to be called off and rescheduled because no one was available to translate for the Czech defendant, with the judge slamming the cost of rescheduling the case. Solicitor Robert Moussalli, a lawyer with 20 years' experience from Manchester firm Burton Copeland, said he was ‘unimpressed’ by some of the replacement interpreters sent by the agency. ALS denies sending untrained agents to court – and says all its translators undergo rigorous tests. Justice minister Crispin Blunt told MPs last week there were ‘unacceptable delays’ with the contract. The Ministry of Justice, which has temporarily allowed courts to hire their own interpreters directly, said it was monitoring the situation daily. A spokesman said: "There have been an unacceptable number of problems in the first weeks of the contract and we have asked the contractor to take urgent steps to improve performance. They have put measures in place to resolve these issues and we have already seen a marked improvement."