19 April 2012
How long before we end up with a serious miscarriage of justice?
History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. As professional interpreters continue their de facto strike over the ongoing outsourcing shambles, Marx’s dictum sprang readily to mind. Last week’s collapsed trial at Snaresbrook over the difference in meaning between ‘beaten’ and ‘bitten’ follows an earlier charade at Ipswich where a solicitor was forced to resort to Google Translate. It is actually funny - or would be, were the consequences of this shocking state of affairs not so serious. How long before we end up with a serious miscarriage of justice?
As judges and lawyers fume over the waste of their time and taxpayers’ money, ministers and Capita/ALS hold the line, issuing the usual boilerplate about ‘retraining’ and ‘urgent steps to improve performance’.
But this standoff is making a mockery of our justice system. A somewhat less radical politician than Marx - Edward Heath - had an equally apposite phrase one can use to summarise the destabilising impact of parcelling up a highly skilled service integral to the machinery of justice and dumping it carelessly on to an untested market: ‘The unacceptable face of capitalism.’ Isn’t it time ministers and Capita sat down with the interpreter groups and sorted this out?