guardian.co.uk, Sunday 25 March 2012
In praise of … judicial interpreters
The professionals who ensure non-English speakers can get justice in our courts deserve better
The job of a judicial interpreter is not easy. Late-night summonses to police stations are commonplace. The person you are dealing with may be distressed, or violent. You may have to spend hours on your feet in the courtroom during a cross-examination. If a defendant has a low opinion of proceedings, the judge hears it from you. Payments are piecemeal and often delayed. Nonetheless, most court interpreters found the job satisfying – until the Ministry of Justice identified £18m in potential savings and gave Applied Language Solutions (recently bought by Capita) a contract to provide interpreters to English and Welsh courts. Now pay has fallen from £30 an hour plus travel expenses to between £16 and £22, with no expenses for the first hour. Hundreds of interpreters have boycotted the arrangement, resulting in costly adjournments. The professionals who ensure non-English speakers can get justice in our courts deserve better.