24 May 2012
Court cases hampered by translation failures
Up to 50 court cases a day were delayed or postponed because of failures by a translation contractor to provide an adequate service
The Ministry of Justice is monitoring the performance of Applied Language Solutions (ALS) after it failed to meet targets.
Judges and court users have complained of delays and even failures by interpreters to turn up since ALS took on the £300 million five-year contract in February.
Figures yesterday showed that the company only fulfilled 81 per cent of the 23,234 requests for its services made between February and April this year.
Complaints have included failures to show, poor language skills by the interpreters or no one being available.
Interpreters said they had boycotted the firm in reaction to low rates of pay, claiming that led to a struggle by ALS to recruit translators, and prompting the use of untrained people in courts.
Between January 30 and April 30, there were 2,232 complaints about the translator service.
The figures showed that by April, the success rate for ALS in fulfilling requests had risen to 90 per cent, but that was still short of the 98 per cent target set by the Ministry of Justice.
An MoJ spokesman said: "We continue to monitor performance on a daily basis.
"However, the contract is now delivering an effective service and we expect to see improvements in the coming months."
The spokesman added: "We have now seen a significant and sustained improvement in performance.
"There are now only a tiny handful of cases each day when an interpreter job is unfilled.
"Disruption to court business and complaints have reduced substantially and close to 3,000 interpreters are now working under this contract.
"We continue to monitor the improvement on a daily basis."
The MoJ report also revealed the scale of the impact immigration has had on the courts system.
A total of 26,059 requests for translation services, covering 142 different languages, were made by the courts during the three months of February to April.
That is the equivalent of 290 a day, with criminal courts accounting for 53 per cent of them.
Four languages made up more than a third of all requests: Polish, Romanian, Urdu and Lithuanian.