March 3 2012
Interpreter system 'waste of money'
A new Framework Agreement contract for interpreting services, awarded to translation services company Applied Language Solutions (ALS), was hoped to save millions of pounds.
But campaigners say the company is offering a substandard service and struggling to find interpreters as many refuse to work for it, resulting in it actually costing more money.
Geoffrey Buckingham, chairman of the Association of Police and Court Interpreters (APCI) and spokesman for campaign group Interpreters for Justice - set up to get the framework scrapped - called for the immediate end of the arrangement, which came into effect on January 30.
He said the Government was already "reaping the whirlwind" created by the deal, and it would only get worse.
"There's a colossal number of examples of failures of ALS to supply and some catastrophes have ensued. You don't have to be a genius to work out the sort of sums that are involved. They look enormous and they are."
He said working on the basis of 320 magistrates courts in England and Wales, and a rough average of two interpreter cases a day, then the rough cost of £1,000 to adjourn a case, the sums of money wasted because of unqualified or inexperienced interpreters was huge.
"Ten cases a week, times 320, times £1,000 equals £3.2 million," he said.
"That's how much, in magistrates courts alone, this contract is costing - that doesn't take into account police costs, nor prison costs. These are fundamental breaches of human rights, and what's going to happen when cases fall apart at crown court because it's discovered that the translation of a witness statement or victim statement is completely wrong? These are serious justice issues."
A Channel 4 news investigation has also highlighted the problems - in one case at Boston Magistrates court on February 1, it was told a Polish interpreter turned up to court wearing a hat and overalls and did not understand the solicitor when he said they needed to go down to the cells.