Thursday, 1 March 2012

Court interpreter service criticised

1 March 2012

Court interpreter service criticised
A leading Peterborough magistrate has described the court system’s interpreter service as “not fit for purpose” after three cases had to be adjourned due to lack of translators.
Peter Beeke, the chairman of Peterborough Magistrates’ Court, was heavily critical of the service when no-one turned up to translate on behalf of three defendants who appeared yesterday.
The lack of interpreters forced the bench to remand one man into custody and adjourn hearings for two other men.
Mr Beeke took the extraordinary step of summoning the court manager, Dawn White, into court to explain why nobody was available to translate.
But she explained to him that the court service had to book interpreters through Applied Language Solutions (ALS) and while they had been ordered no-one had turned up.
Mr Beeke, speaking outside the court, said: “This has been brewing for a few weeks when the new structure with ALS came into force.
“Their service is not fit for purpose, there are no other words for it. As witnessed today, when that happens justice is a long way from being done.
“People are being remanded in custody when they should have been given the opportunity to get bail and in today’s case he probably would have been given bail.
“Trials are collapsing and sentences are being deferred by this lack of service.
“ALS was put in position to save money but the costs involved in delaying court and keeping people on remand when they could be in the community just beggars belief.
“We need a solution because the interpreters are not signing up to the new contract and there’s a complete shortage of them.”
In the court yesterday, an interpreter, for either Russian or Lithuanian, failed to show for a case involving Modestas Adomaitis (32), of Frieston Road, Boston and Edgaras Balceris (21), of Huntly Grove, Peterborough.
Both men are accused of going equipped to steal diesel but Giles Beaumont, prosecuting, expressed discomfort at putting the case against them when they could not understand what was being said.
Claire Thorneley, defending, said she would struggle to take proper instructions without an interpreter.
Arvids Ceirans (35), of Padholme Road, Peterborough, also represented by Miss Thorneley, had to be remanded into custody because a Russian interpreter was unavailable for his domestic violence hearing.
After the case, adjourned until today in the hope an interpreter turns up, Miss Thorneley said: “It is not justice if someone can’t put their case for liberty and if that liberty is denied simply because they can’t speak English.”
The ET first revealed the crisis last week when district judge Ken Sheraton spoke about his frustration after adjourning two cases because of a lack of interpreters.
We also reported how court interpreters felt they could be forced to leave the profession as a result of the new contract between ALS and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).
Before February 1, courts could book interpreters directly to attend cases. Since then only ALS interpreters can be used in court and the firm does not pay as much.
The MoJ had said the deal would save £18 million a year but the new system has proven to be so poor it has launched a review.
A spokeswoman said: “There have been an unacceptable number of problems in the first weeks of full implementation of the contract and we have asked ALS to take urgent steps to improve performance.”
No-one at ALS was available for comment.

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