Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Court translator travels 560 miles for just eight minutes

A translator was forced to make a 900 km (500-mile) round trip to appear in court for just eight minutes under a “farcical” new system designed to save cash.
The Vietnamese speaker had to leave Newcastle at 3 am for a five-hour journey to a hearing at magistrates’ court in Suffolk.
The case last week highlights the chaos under a “disastrous” new system that has led to cancelled hearings, wasted time and spiralling costs, say lawyers.
They claim problems started after translation services were outsourced to Applied Language Solutions in January in a move to save Whitehall £18 million a year.
Many staff have refused to sign up under reduced pay terms – leaving foreign defendants without a proper hearing or forcing them to remain in custody at taxpayer expense because they cannot understand a bail hearing.
Solicitor Neil Saunders said: “Farcical is not the right word. It’s actually a tragedy. Whilst justice must be blind, it should not be mute.” Lawyer Andrew Cleal said he had been forced to ask Romanian clients to bring a friend to interpret and has even turned up to Google Translate for help.
He said: “It makes me very angry to see everybody – solicitors and court staff – having to work exceptionally hard to deal with what I believe is a Ministry of Justice cock-up. The whole thing is a disaster.
“It’s a fundamental human right that you are allowed to be tried in court in prompt time, without delay, and being able to understand the proceedings against you.”
A survey by legal newsletter CrimeLine found translators failed to turn up in more than half of cases between March 12 and 16.
The Ministry of Justice said there were “unacceptable” problems with the system but claimed it has improved.
Applied Language Solutions said it was now honouring most court bookings and a spokeswoman said “more interpreters are singing up daily”.

Metro, page 25, 28 March 2012

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