July 19, 2012
Man kept in cells for days as translator unavailable
An asylum seeker who broke into an empty house to find somewhere to sleep was kept in jail for two nights as police tried to find an Arabic translator.
Last Wednesday the chairman of the magistrates' bench at Folkestone joined the Crown prosecutor and the man's defence solicitor in criticising the state of translation services.
His solicitor Sophie Reed, also being funded under the Legal Aid programme, told the court her client had spent two days in police cells because no one could be found who spoke the correct Arab dialect.
"Yesterday I went to represent him and there was no interpreter, so this is the third day this defendant has spent in jail for something that police said they would have issued a fixed penalty notice for, but couldn't because he was homeless," she said.
"This situation is a potential breach of his human rights because we are not able to supply any information to the arrested person. We are discriminating against him"
Prosecutor Mr Sweeney said: "A translator not being available is a failure of the system, this was not the fault of the police. We've all experienced difficulties under the new system."
A shake-up of the costly translation service saw the government agree a deal with Applied Language Solutions saving £18million – almost a quarter of the annual spend – but many in the courts believe it has led to delays.
Chairman of the bench Neil Hubbard agreed that the two days Chammakh has spent in jail was sufficient punishment for the criminal damage, and he made no cost or compensation order.