ITIA Bulletin - April 2012
Monday, 30 April 2012
30 Apr 2012
Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what estimate his Department has made of the number of unregistered interpreters illegally working in Crown and magistrates' courts in the last five years; and what assessment his Department has made of the possibility of a miscarriage of justice in each case which such an interpreter provided interpretation for.
Jonathan Djanogly (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (HM Courts Service and Legal Aid), Justice; Huntingdon, Conservative)
Information about unregistered interpreters working in Crown and magistrates courts since 2007 is not held centrally and this information was either not collected or is not readily accessible across the courts to enable collection.
Prior to January 2012, the Crown and magistrates courts predominantly sourced interpreters from the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI). NRPSI took responsibility for the status of interpreters on their register but did not take responsibility for ensuring that the correct, qualified interpreter was assigned.
Under the current Ministry of Justice agreement relating to language services, the contractor must ensure the continuous training and development of interpreters and all interpreters are required to abide by a comprehensive code of conduct which emphasises that they should only undertake assignments for which they are competent.
The contractor must ensure that all interpreters/translators can verify their identity and credentials for every assignment. The contractor has a formal investigation process for dealing with reported issues with an interpreter. If the quality of any linguist is in question, the contractor will carry out the quality checks as highlighted in the investigation. Following this investigation the contractor will either change the qualification status of the linguist while they carry out or recommend additional training or will discontinue their engagement and strike them off the register.
Sunday, 29 April 2012
29th April 2012
Interpreter shortage causes Croydon courts backlog
A shortage of interpreters is causing massive backlogs in court cases, according to one lawyer.
The government privatised translator services after striking a £300m deal with Applied Language Solutions.
But a lack of translators at Croydon’s courts is causing delays, increasing waiting times and costs.
Robert Hardy-McBride, a lawyer at Steel & Shamash, said the different ethnic groups meant translators were in high demand in Croydon.
He said: “Croydon is a glorious melting pot of diversity.
“Much of this is due to the location of the Home Office. Croydon has more than its share of foreign language speakers before the court so is likely to be more affected than most.
“Cases in Croydon have been adjourned due to a lack of translators causing matters to be relisted that should have been finished in one or two hearings, this increases the length of lists and longer waiting times and costs for all involved.
“I have personally dealt with a case adjourned twice for a lack of interpreter, on the second time ALS simply cancelled the signer without telling the court, client or solicitor.”
Mr Hardy-McBride said the government had stopped paying solicitors’ waiting time which means they are left out of pocket for any delays waiting for translators.
And Mr Hardy-McBride is worried the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.
He added: “Until the Ministry of Justice accept they have made a mistake by entering the contract, there will be concerns that this deplorable situation will continue.
“The background to the whole affair is the government’s attempt to cut costs to the bone: closing courts, reducing Legal Aid eligibility and payment rates and so on.
“There is discontent throughout the criminal justice system from police officers to judges.”
Justice Minister Crispin Blunt admitted earlier this month there were “problems” but insisted the situation was "rapidly improving".
A spokesman for ALS said: “The contract began less than 2 months ago, we are fulfilling the vast majority of bookings (nearly 3,000 a week) and have 2,000 experienced and qualified linguists actively working within the system.
“More interpreters are signing up daily. Assigning qualified and experienced linguists to assignments and insisting on continuous professional development, while reducing operational inefficiencies, remains our focus.”
Saturday, 28 April 2012
Professional Interpreters for Justice campaign
Interpreters in Unite’s NUPIT branch and five other professional interpreting organisations, representing 2,350 registered public service interpreters in 101 languages, have launched the Professional Interpreters for Justice campaign.
The campaign’s three aims are to:
- Reverse the outsourcing to ALS or other commercial agencies, and the reintroduction of direct employment of freelance interpreters by the courts and police services
- Establish regular dialogue between interpreter organisations and government
- Persuade government to provide statutory regulation of the interpreting profession and protection of the title of Legal Interpreter.
The six organisations which are partners in the campaign are:
- APCI – Association of Police and Court Interpreters
- ITI – Institute of Translation and Interpreting
- NUPIT – National Union of Professional Interpreters and Translators, part of Unite the union
- PIA – Professional Interpreters’ Alliance
- SOMI – Society of Official Metropolitan Interpreters UK
- SPSI – Society for Professional Public Service Interpreting
Read more: http://www.unitetheunion.org/sectors/community_youth_workers/unite_and_your_organisation/national_union_of_professional/professional_interpreters_for.aspx
Thursday, 26 April 2012
26 April 2012 by Jago Russell
Difficult to comprehend
I have followed with interest and mounting concern the Gazette’s coverage of fears about the declining standards of interpretation in UK criminal courts, most recently ‘Interpreter mistake causes trial to collapse'.
Fair Trials International helps hundreds of people arrested abroad every year and the standard of interpreting in court proceedings continues to be a very common concern. Over 10% complain that they were either provided interpreters who had poor command of their language or denied access to an interpreter altogether.
Many people are not surprised to hear that the quality of interpretation is inadequate in countries such as India and Thailand, but many of the cases we see raising major concerns come from within Europe. One of our clients in Portugal recently told us that the interpreter in his trial had limited command of the language. In fact she was a hairdresser and friend of the judge’s wife, called in at late notice.
We have campaigned hard for an EU directive on the right to interpretation and translation on criminal proceedings, which comes into effect next year. Against this backdrop, reports that standards of interpretation are declining in UK courts are of enormous concern.
The right to be understood in criminal proceedings is an indispensable aspect of the right to a fair trial. When Britons are arrested abroad we correctly expect their basic rights to be respected. We must not, at the same time, neglect the rights of foreign nationals in our own legal system.
Jago Russell, chief executive, Fair Trials International
26 April 2012 by Catherine Baksi
Court interpreter situation 'improving'
Large numbers of court hearings are still being hit by interpreter problems nearly three months after new contracting arrangements began - but the situation has improved, new figures indicate.
An online survey completed by 80 lawyers and judges shows that between 16-20 April, four in 10 cases requiring an interpreter were disrupted because an interpreter failed to turn up. This was an improvement from 12-16 March, when the same survey, conducted by education and training provider CrimeLine, showed that interpreters failed to attend in 56% of cases.
Several courts have listed hearings to consider wasted costs applications against contractor Applied Language Solutions (ALS), but a spokeswoman for the company said no such orders have been made to date.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that ALS discussed different strategies for implementing its service before agreeing on a national rollout. Speaking at a demonstration by interpreters boycotting the company, shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter alleged that ALS had said it ‘didn’t want the contract to be rolled out across the country’.
An ALS spokeswoman said: ‘Various rollout plans were discussed throughout the process and ultimately a national one was agreed to be the best solution.’
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
25 April 2012
Outsourcing (Government Departments)
John Cryer (Leyton and Wanstead, Labour)
Another example is the translation service. Since it was moved into the private sector, a plethora of problems have included translators failing to turn up at court and criminals walking away without being tried because no translator was present.
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Nevada Court Interpreters Protest Wage Cuts
There’s a crisis in the British courts – many court interpreters are refusing to work. They’re protesting a new contract with lower wages. The protest is resulting in postponed hearings, suspects being released, and extra costs for the courts.
In the US, many courts throughout the nation have also been cutting wages for interpreters. And now in Nevada, some interpreters are refusing to work.
The UK dilemma over interpreting services for the justice sector continues
In a recent Skype conference EULITA’s Executive Committee decided to send a letter to the Lord Chancellor and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Justice in which it expressed its concern over the current situation in the UK.
It referred to the fact that the United Kingdom has been renowned for its tradition of fair trials and respect of human rights throughout the world for a long time. It pointed out that the right of non-native speakers to understand and be understood in court is a most essential component of a fair trial and that the UK’s National Register, based on the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting, has been a model for many countries. The Executive Committee therefore thought that it was all the more regrettable that at a time, when the EU Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings is being implemented, the language services that are currently being provided to the justice sector in the UK appear to be seriously flawed. As reports indicate there are procedural delays, there are situations where persons have to be released or – on the contrary – kept in custody, due to inadequate or unavailable interpreting services. Reports also indicate that defendants, victims and witnesses, on the one hand, and judges, lawyers and police officers, on the other hand, will not be able to resort to the services of qualified and experienced interpreters in the near future, as the qualified and experienced interpreters who have worked for the justice sector for many years, are refusing to work under unacceptable working conditions and, in consequence, are forced to leave the profession.
In the view of the Executive Committee of EULITA the situation in the UK has reached a deadlock where consultations with the representatives of the profession in the United Kingdom might offer a basis on which to find a way to overcome the impasse.
The Executive Committee hopes that in the course of implementing the EU Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings official action will be directed towards reasonable transposition arrangements which will withstand any challenges under Article 8 of EU Directive 2010/64/EU.
Liese Katschinka, President
on behalf of the Executive Committee of EULITA
Monday, 23 April 2012
"CrimeLine survey reveals extent of problem arranging interpreters in criminal cases
April 2012: CrimeLine asked its 18,000 readers to report back in relation to criminal cases involving the use of an appointed interpreter during the week 16th – 20th April2012.
A total of 80 responses were received:"
April 23, 2012
Court hearing adjourned after wrong interpreter is booked
TWO shopkeepers who had 22,000 fake and illegal cigarettes seized from their grocery store had a wasted journey to court because the wrong interpreter turned up.
Soran Talibani, 33, and Sako Fatahi, 32, of Gloucester Groceries, Station Road, pleaded guilty to 42 charges of supplying illegal tobacco.
They were due to be sentenced at Cheltenham Magistrates' Court on Thursday but the case had to be adjourned.
Talibani required a Kurdish Sorani interpreter but the court apologised after a Somoli interpreter was wrongly booked.
"It is a mistake that should have been avoided," said bench chairman Andrew Tabor.
Jane Gadsen, prosecuting for Gloucestershire County Council Trading Standards, said she was disappointed, having e-mailed the court service, asking for a Kurdish Sorani interpreter on March 23.
Talibani owned the shop until September 2011 when responsibility was transferred to Fatahi. Talibani pleaded guilty to 25 charges, while Fatahi pleaded guilty to 17 at a hearing in March.
Sentencing was adjourned until May 8.
23 Apr 2012
Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps he is taking to ensure that unregistered interpreters working in Crown and magistrates courts are identified and prosecuted.
Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
Under the Ministry of Justice's Contract for Language Services, the contractor must:
ensure that an interpreter/translator of the appropriate agreed standard (qualifications, experience and vetting) is provided for each individual assignment;
ensure that all interpreters/translators can verify their identity and credentials to the relevant justice sector organisations for every assignment;
ensure adherence to a code of conduct for interpreters/translators and any other rules or guidelines set by central Government; and
have in place robust procedures to deal with poor quality interpretation/translation and inappropriate behaviour.
The contractor has a formal investigation process for dealing with every reported issue. If the quality of any linguist is in question, the contractor will carry out the quality checks as highlighted in the investigation. Following this investigation they will either change the qualification status of the linguist while they carry out or recommend additional training or they will discontinue their engagement and strike them off the register.
Friday, 20 April 2012
After an attempted murder trial was delayed for a second time last week, the useless Capital-owned firm Applied Language Solutions (ALS – see Eyes passim) was billed by the client for failing to supply a court interpreter.
The wasted costs order was issued at Bradford crown court following a second adjournment because no interpreter was available for Czech defendant Karel Novotny. His lawyer quipped that it might be easier for him to learn Czech than to wait for ALS to send anyone along.
The order follows a letter from attorney general Dominic Grieve to Labour MP Emily Thornberry saying that as ALS’s failure to provide interpreters “does not seem to fall within the law of contempt”, it was “best addressed by wasted costs [orders]”. A previous wasted costs application at Snaresbrook crown court was rejected when the judge put ALS’s problems down to “teething troubles”, but patience is now wearing thin and the legal press reports that many more solicitors intend to apply for such orders if their cases suffer further delays.
The whole interpreting contract could become costly for ALS, but it’s also working out to be pretty pricey for the court service too. Last Friday a retrial had to be ordered at a cost of £25,000 after a four-day hearing in a burglary case – also a Snaresbrook – was wrecked by an ALS Romanian interpreter who muddled the words “bitten” and “beaten” and didn’t realise the mistake until it came up in cross-examination.
Private Eye, issue 1312, 20 April to 3 May 2012, page 5.
Thursday, 19 April 2012
April 19, 2012
The 59-year-old defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, shouted: "I have a question," from the dock as one of his co-accused, takeaway worker Qamar Shahzad, was giving evidence from the witness box, adding: "This interpreter is terrible. They have only got half of it. How can we get justice?" The outburst left one of the two interpreters working in the trial, who had been standing beside Mr Shahzad, sobbing. Judge Gerald Clifton warned the 59-year-old about his conduct in front of the jury, saying he would spend the rest of the trial in the cells if there was a repeat. The trial was halted briefly for the interpreter to compose herself.
19 Apr 2012
Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice
(1) how many applications for mistrial or unlawful detention have been brought relating to a failure to provide adequate translation services by Applied Language Solutions in the last 12 months;
(2) what steps he is taking in respect of the failure to provide translators by Applied Language Solutions;
(3) how much his Department spent on translation services in each of the last 12 months.
Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
Information on applications for mistrial or unlawful detention in relation to a failure to provide adequate translation, or indeed interpretation services is not collected centrally.
My officials continue to meet with the contractor and demand continued improvement in performance and seek to ensure that the contractor meets the contracted levels of performance. Contingency arrangements to minimise disruption to courts and tribunals will remain in place until then.
Translation forms a small subset of overall spend on interpretation and translation services. Under the previous arrangements information on spending on translation services was not collected centrally. As made clear on 28 February 2012, Official Report, column 190W, the cost across the justice system was estimated to be in the region of £60 million. Based on those estimates, spending in the Department is estimated to be in the region of £25-28 million per year across Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunal Service, Her Majesty's Prison Service and the Probation Service. Because information on spending in this specific area has never been collected centrally, the Ministry is unable to provide a full monthly breakdown.