24 June 2013 by Catherine Baksi
MPs demand an end to interpreters contract
A parliamentary debate last week heard calls for the ‘shambolic’ court interpreters contract to be scrapped, as the service continues to miss performance targets.
During a debate on the Commons Justice Committee’s damning report on the contract, shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter cited a press report about a Lithuanian interpreter who admitted that she routinely advises defendants to ‘tell the truth about how everything happened’.
Interpreters are forbidden to advise those for whom they interpret.
MPs voiced concern that the contract is ‘seriously damaging’ the administration of justice and warned that the predicted £15m savings are ‘seriously at risk’ due to the cost of delayed trials.
As the government seeks to procure large contracts for rehabilitation, prisons and criminal legal aid services, committee chair Sir Alan Beith MP warned there would be a ‘multiple train crash’ if the failings of the relatively small interpreting contract were repeated.
Justice minister Helen Grant accepted there had been ‘teething problems’ at the start of the contract, but said performance was now at 90%, against a 98% target, and there was no need to consider suspending or revoking the contract.