25 April 2016 by Malcolm Fowler
All credit is again due to reporter Monidipa Fouzder for alerting us to the further dog’s breakfast the Ministry of Justice seems intent on perpetrating when seeking bids for the new contract (or contracts) for court interpreters scheduled to begin on 31 October.
The contrivance of four supposedly exclusive lots is just as half-baked as the three tiers of interpreter provision which bedevilled the existing contract from the outset. To suppose no overlap with those lots is fanciful – just as it was plainly fallacious over the three tiers to proceed as though ‘the more serious the case, the more complex the language’.
We all have a more pressing obligation to work together to get this right, with the relevant provisions of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights having been adopted here as long ago as 27 October 2013.
The small print of earlier days made plain the intent of the ministry to foist inferior interpreter services upon us in all legally aided cases through the medium of that same exclusive contract. The Law Society saw that off – for the moment.
The provision of these vital services is unarguably a core departmental function. The very notion of contracting out at all was ill-conceived from the outset and predicated on some tittle-tattle over failures and avoidable expense with the system in place back in 2012.
Any imperfections and wastage then were nothing compared with the litany of costly failures through aborted or delayed hearings now contaminating due process – and all through the MoJ’s fixation with outsourcing. Not to mention the marked decline in interpreting quality and professionalism, and the untold damage wrought to the rule of law and due process. A system that worked has been cast aside in favour of a tawdry and more expensive substitute.
There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the national agreement formerly operating and indeed the Society’s guidance to practitioners that still mirrors it.
Our profession has been missing a trick in failing to make common cause with the Professional Interpreters’ Alliance. The complacency and arrogance displayed by the MoJ over our professional endeavours, and its clear disapproval of our independence of thought and action – are all similarly in evidence in its dealings with them.
Malcolm Fowler, Dennings, Tipton