Norwich Evening News
14th March 2012
Judge hits out at interpreter delay
A judge has warned delays to court proceedings caused by interpreters failing to attend could lead to defendants absconding or committing more crimes.
Judge Peter Jacobs, pictured, spoke out against Applied Language Solutions (ALS) yesterday after three men accused of rape were once again left with on-one to translate for them when appearing at Norwich Crown Court. Calling the situation “intolerable”, he said: “This is yet another case in which interpreters have not been provided to this court. In my experience, it is the seventh occasion in the last three-and-a-half weeks.”
ALS was awarded a government contract to provide interpreters to English and Welsh courts, but Judge Jacobs said they were failing to meet the requirements of the service in Norfolk. Last Friday court officials had to scrabble around to find an interpreter for six Lithuanian-speaking defendants after two, booked through ALS, failed to arrive. Judge Jacobs said: “In the case of last week’s hearing, there will be a custody time limit hearing starting next Monday. If there is no interpreter here, then it is unclear how, at this stage this court will proceed. But it could lead to the release of men who might well subsequently abscond or commit further crimes.”
Judge Jacobs said any hearings which went ahead without interpreters also left defendants at a “grave disadvantage”. During yesterday’s hearing, Jonathan Goodman, who was representing two of the defendants accused of rape, said problems with the service meant he was working “pro bono” – or for free. The failure of interpreters to attend earlier hearings meant his clients had been unable to fill out forms requesting legal aid.