24 November 2013 by Robin Henry
Justice is lost in translation turmoil
The National Audit Office has launched a new investigation into the Ministry of Justice’s outsourcing of court interpreters, after nearly 10,000 complaints about the service offered by contractor Capita.
Judges, barristers and court officials are arguing that the £90m contract is delaying proceedings by up to a year and jeopardising cases, including those involving rape and murder.
They claim interpreters often do not turn up or are so bad they are dismissed. As a result, Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the public accounts committee (PAC), has started an investigation.
The inquiry will look into the costs incurred by problems with the service and the extent to which courts are bypassing it to find their own interpreters. Last year the PAC released a damning report into how the contract was originally awarded and implemented.
The Ministry of Justice has since insisted that the service has dramatically improved. However, figures released last week showed a 23% increase in the number of complaints in the second quarter of 2013 compared with 2012.
Mary Prior, a barrister in Leicester, said a rape case she is defending has been delayed a year by interpreting problems.
Capita disputed that it was responsible for the delay. The MoJ attributed the rise in complaints to Capita reducing the travel allowances for interpreters in January. The ministry claims this matter has been resolved and expects the service to improve again.