December 12th, 2012 by Marcos
Capita interprets the Ministry of Justice as ‘Great Big Cash Cow’
We have all done or said things we are ashamed of: ignominious deeds and utterances of such excruciating fuckwittery that the mere act of remembering them is enough to make our palms sweaty and our bottoms feel funny.
In more extreme cases these distressing episodes manifest themselves as a mild form of Tourette’s, a sort of pang of remembered shame that compels the unfortunate sufferer to groan loudly or briefly shout something as a way of blocking out that embarrassing thought, which, like a bully in the school toilets, has a habit of turning up to taunt us at our most private moments.
At the Ministry of Justice nothing these days makes the dicksplashes in charge of it hot with shame quite as quickly as the mention of court interpreting. And with good reason, too. For it took a service that, albeit not perfect, worked smoothly enough, and converted it into a dark comedy currently played out daily in courtrooms across the land.
Previously, courts would book interpreters directly from the National Register of Public Service Interpreters. For a small fee interpreters would turn up on time, appropriately dressed, and demonstrate great knowledge and fluency with legal jargon in at least two languages. The MoJ decided that what the service was really clamouring for was to give most of that small fee interpreters were earning to an agency,
Applied Language Solutions (now Capita TI), who would take on the responsibility of booking the interpreters. Needless to say, those knowledgeable and well-turned-out interpreters decided they would rather starve than hand over their hard-earned cash to a pimp, and Capita TI replaced them with people whose previous experience of a courtroom was mostly acquired sitting in the dock as defendants.
The situation, which continues to cause alarm and distress to defendants, witnesses, court staff, as well as judges’ wigs to fall off from time to time, finally came to the attention of Parliament, and the Justice Select Committee set up an inquiry to investigate the whole disturbing saga. In its gathering of evidence, the committee requested that those who have first-hand accounts of interpreters cartwheeling into the courtroom in clown outfits to submit it anonymously via their website.
But a government department doesn’t become the Ministry of Justice without picking up a trick or two along the way – you know the sort of thing: witness intimidation, duress and other sinister threats. The MoJ’s Tourette’s kicked in and it immediately circulated an email expressly ‘discouraging’ court staff and members of the judiciary from spilling the beans on Capita TI’s shit service on pain of coming around to their houses and setting chickens on them. Or something.
And who can blame them for not wanting to have it out with the Justice Select Committee? People will point and laugh. It’s already bad enough that the massive bell-ends at the MoJ can only discuss the issue amongst themselves from behind sofas or looking at each another through the gaps between their fingers. They are embarrassed. And those of us fortunate enough not to be languishing in some prison waiting for an interpreter to turn up in order to tell the court we’re innocent, really, Your Honour, almost empathise with them.
But enough is enough. The government simply must find another way of siphoning public funds into their mates’ coffers – one which doesn’t involve turning our courts into the current Kafkaesque dystopia. Yes, it will hurt for a while and for years to come those responsible for this fiasco will probably wince and cringe every time they hear the word ‘interpreter’ or watch a movie with Nicole Kidman in it, but the alternative is a justice system that is not merely blind but deaf and monolingual, and Lady Justice may as well have her scales and sword replaced with an ambidextrous flicking of ‘V’s at all comers.
As the saying goes, it’s all fun and games until an interpreter gets in a muddle and we end up with a 15-year prison sentence.