6 June 2016
Police paying £440,000 for court interpreters
Providing interpreting services in courts across Northern Ireland cost the police almost half a million pounds last year.
The PSNI said it had spent £440,285 on interpreting services in 2015/16.
The figures relate to the total cost for non-UK nationals, and include both EU and non-EU citizens.
Police said they were unable to provide a further breakdown of how much was spent on interpretation for those accused of committing an offence in the north as it did not "hold the information in the format requested."
In a report in 2012, the Courts Service said that the PSNI and Public Prosecution Service are expected to arrange an interpreter for a first court appearance, with the Court Service responsible for any subsequent appearances.
It said: "The costs of providing in court interpretation services for defendants at first appearances will be met by the PSNI. The costs of providing in court interpretation services for defendants at second and subsequent hearings will be met jointly by NICTS, PPS and DoJ."
The top two interpreter requests for court cases have been for Lithuanian and Polish, with an average of 1,000 cases for each language per year.
In January 2014 a trial aborted after one day at Craigavon Crown Court after it emerged that the interpreter was unregistered, cost £30,000 in public money and prompted an investigation by Justice Minister David Ford.
Across the UK there were 160,000 requests for interpreting and translation services in courts and tribunals in 2013 and 2014, according to the Ministry of Justice.
The issue of billing the taxpayer to provide interpretation for those appearing in court was raised in the Assembly in January by DUP Mid-Ulster MLA Ian McCrea.
He said: "Given that other countries across Europe ensure that, if a person is in that country and does not have the language of that country as their first language, they have to pay for the provision of an interpreter and, indeed, bring one with them, does the minister have a view on whether that should be considered for Northern Ireland?"
Former Justice Minister David Ford replied that charging for interpreting "is not common to the justice system or, indeed, other services like the health service" and added that it was "not something that I have been considering."