7th April 2012
By Steve Wright
Interpreter service 'disrupting court work'
The running of the courts in Bradford is being disrupted because of inexperienced or unqualified interpreters, says a former translator.
Javed Iqbal has gone as far as to warn there could be miscarriages of justice because of problems following cost-cutting changes by the Government to the interpreter service provided to the courts.
Mr Iqbal said some interpreters were now earning as little as £10, after travel costs, for half a day’s work.
He said translators were now being used who had no court experience.
The Ministry of Justice awarded the contract for managing translation services to Applied Language Solutions in a move to save £18 million a year. The company replaced a network of local interpreters in February.
But senior Bradford judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC last month demanded a full explanation in writing from ALS after an interpreter failed to turn up for a vulnerable woman complainant in a violence and sex abuse case.
And Judge Robert Bartfield had to halt a trial, costing thousands of pounds, when no Czech interpreter was provided.
Mr Iqbal, 55, of Heckmondwike, a married father-of-four, is one of a number of local interpreters who have not worked since the changes were brought in.
He spent 12 years translating in Bradford courts and police stations and at immigration tribunals, after gaining his Diploma in Public Services Interpreting, and interpreted for defendants accused over the Bradford riots.
He said: “The previous system worked perfectly well.
“I am sure a lot of my colleagues were willing to co-operate if there had been a fairer arrangement. But the pay is ridiculous.
“The courts won’t function without an interpreter. People don’t realise how important that person is in a high profile case.”
Mr Iqbal said he was assessing his situation, but might have to resort to claiming benefits.
He said: “The service to the courts is being disrupted very badly. I am very concerned that miscarriages of justice will happen. They are using unqualified people, and people who have qualified but have no court experience.
“The Ministry of Justice needs to get its act together and should go back to the system that was in place and was successful.”
ALS has previously said it was signing up more interpreters daily and was determined to get the service running at a level that met the requirements of the Ministry of Justice.