Jul 21 2012 by Jonathan Walker
MPs launch inquiry into translation shambles which let suspects walk free
A high-level inquiry has been launched into a shambolic new interpreter service which has allowed foreign suspects to walk free from police custody.
The House of Commons Justice Select Committee has launched an investigation into a cost-cutting scheme which was supposed to save West Midlands Police £12 million, but was plagued by reports of translators failing to turn up or making mistakes.
The Birmingham Mail revealed earlier this year that police in the region had been forced to release arrested foreign suspects on bail because they could not get interpreters for police station interviews. In some cases, officers were forced to hire linguists from as far afield as Leeds and Manchester.
It followed the Ministry of Justice’s decision to save money by employing firm Applied Language Solutions to provide translation services across the country.
The business claimed to be able to offer cheap services but this involved cutting the pay interpreters received. In practice, interpreters simply refused to sign new contracts, leaving the business unable to provide the services it had promised.
Applied Language Solutions is owned by Capita, one of the firms in the running to sign a £1.5 billion partnership deal with West Midlands and Surrey police forces.
MP Alan Beith, chair of the Justice Select Committee, announced the launch of the inquiry. A series of hearings are expected to take place at Westminster in September.
Guillermo Makin, chairman of the Society for Public Service Interpreting, said: “Professionally qualified and experienced interpreters have valiantly upheld their ethical principles by not signing up for a system which cannot be sustained and which is degrading British justice and breaking the law on a person’s right to a fair trial.”