May 12, 2013
Interpreter’s ‘low pay’ halts a trial
A furious Crown Court judge had to adjourn a murder hearing because a Mandarin interpreter refused to turn up, claiming he would “not be making enough money”.
The judge hit out when he was forced to halt the case against Chinese businessman Anxiang Du, from Coventry, who is accused of killing four members of a family in Northampton in 2011.
The clerk at Nottingham Crown Court said he had been told it was “not worthwhile” for an interpreter to turn up.
Mr Justice Julian Flaux said: “It would be completely unfair on Mr Du to go ahead without an interpreter. To say I am annoyed is an understatement. I will be asking for a written explanation. It is a complete disgrace.”
It is the latest row to hit the newly centralised interpreter service supplied by Capita Translation and Interpreting.
The deal has seen fees slashed, with interpreters no longer paid for time spent with defendants before they enter court, leading to an increasing number of hearings being abandoned.
Courts say they are now having to bypass the system “more than 50 per cent of the time” as interpreters either fail to turn up, or are not qualified to do the job if they do arrive.
Instead courts are having to raid emergency coffers and revert to the old system of directly sourcing translators.
The campaign group Professional Interpreters for Justice has revealed that Capita is providing only 48 per cent of the interpreters required by courts.
At least five police forces are ignoring the deal, with Cambridgeshire securing a 60 per cent reduction in translation costs by striking its own independent agreement with interpreters.
Last week a Capita interpreter asked by a judge at Woolwich Crown Court if he was qualified, replied: “I am from Capita.”
The defendant then told the court: “I can speak better English than this interpreter.”
Last Tuesday a murder trial at Shrewsbury Crown Court had to be adjourned for the second time as an interpreter booked for the defendant was not available.
Geoffrey Buckingham, of Professional Interpreters for Justice, said: “This system is not working. We are seeing evidence of suspects having to stay jailed on remand for weeks because there are no translators.”
Michael Turner QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Council, said: “This shows what happens when the Government hives off important services to the cheapest bidder. The results are atrocious, there are miscarriages of justice and so many delays that the costs go up.”
Capita has admitted: “There have been challenges regarding the delivery of this contract.” It claimed that the business was “investing in improving its performance”.
A spokesman said Capita had “worked to secure a replacement” for the Nottingham hearing after the original interpreter was unable to attend.