Ipswich: It’s a farce! Fed-up defence solicitors blast court interpreter system after translator has to travel from NEWCASTLE to Ipswich for hearing
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
By Colin Adwent, crime correspondent
IPSWICH: Furious solicitors today branded a new court case interpreter system as farcical after a translator made a 564-mile round trip for an eight-minute court hearing.
The Vietnamese interpreter had to get up at around 3am to catch a train from Newcastle to Peterborough, before changing trains to Ipswich, in order to be at the town’s South East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court by 10am.
The journey to Suffolk took four-and-a-half hours and is said to typify what is claimed to be a haphazard and chaotic system.
Defence solicitors at the Ipswich court have labelled the situation as a “farce”, a “disaster” and a “tragedy”, claiming some clients languish in jail due to interpreters failing to turn up for potential bail hearings.
The lawyers said they and court staff have even had to resort to using the internet web service Google Translate to be able to communicate with their clients. In some cases it has been claimed friends of the defendants have had to stand up in court to help explain what is going on to the defendant.
Solicitors and clerks say they are growing increasing frustrated over the issue of interpreters allegedly failing to attend court or being late because they have travelled from many miles away.
The situation said to have arisen after the government awarded the interpreter contract to Applied Language Solutions, which took over on January 30. A vast majority of translators from Suffolk are believed to have refused to work for the company as they say it has slashed their fees.
In the case of the interpreter from Newcastle, defendant Phuong Van Duong, who is accused of the production of cannabis, his solicitor says he had not been able to understand what was happening in court on four previous occasions as no translator had turned up.
His 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. People are not being represented.”
The hearing began at 10.43am and finished at 10.51am, leaving the interpreter to face the long return trip home.
A Lithuanian interpreter was also at court on the same day.
She had travelled from London to help two alleged Ipswich shoplifters.
The third case requiring a translator that day involved a Chinese woman living in Bramford, who was accused of actual bodily harm.
No interpreter was able to be at the court, so her solicitor Dino Barricella told officials he had to resort to getting his secretary to use Google Translate to explain what the hearing was about.
Mr Barricella said: “It’s a complete farce. People will remain in custody, because we as solicitors can not take instructions and therefore are not able to put forward bail applications.”
Andrew Cleal, of Oslers in Stowmarket, added: “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.”