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Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Court interpreter contract ‘unacceptable’ – top family judge

http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/practice/interpreters-contract-unacceptable-top-family-judge/5041387.article 
27 May 2014 by Catherine Baksi

Court interpreter contract ‘unacceptable’ – top family judge
The head of the Family Division has branded arrangements for providing court interpreters ‘unacceptable’ after he was forced to abandon a final adoption hearing as no one attended to translate for Slovak-speaking parents.
Sir James Munby (pictured) ordered Capita, which bought the smaller company given an £18m-a-year Ministry of Justice contract, to explain why neither of the two interpreters booked for a hearing on 7 May attended.
He said the response from Capita’s relationship director Sonia Facchini, disclosed a ‘concerning state of affairs’.
There were, he said, three points in Facchini's statement ‘demanding notice’.
First he noted: ‘The contractual arrangements between Capita and the interpreters it provides do not give Capita the ability to require that any particular interpreter accepts any particular assignment or even to honour any engagement which the interpreter has accepted.’
In this case, the two interpreters who accepted the assignment later cancelled.
Secondly, highlighting the late notice given to courts if bookings are cancelled, Munby said: ‘It is only at 2pm on the day before the hearing that Capita notifies the court that there is no interpreter assigned.’
The third point was the ‘revelation’ that on the day of the hearing Capita had only 29 suitably qualified Slovak interpreters on its books for court hearings that day and only 13 within a 100-mile radius of the Royal Courts of Justice.
The number was insufficient to enable the company to provide 39 Slovak interpreters requested by courts on that date, Munby said.
 Munby described the abandonment of hearings owing to the lack of interpreters as an ‘unacceptable state of affairs’.
‘It might be that something needs to be done,’ he said.
‘Whether the underlying causes are to be found in the nature of the contract between the MoJ and HMCTS or whoever and Capita, or in the nature of the contract between Capita and the interpreters it retains, or in the sums paid respectively to Capita and its interpreters, or in an inadequate supply of interpreters… I do not know. We need to find out,’ said Munby.
The hearing abandoned on 7 May was scheduled to be the final hearing of a case concerning two children, J and S, born to Roma parents from Slovakia.
Defending the adjournment Munby said: ‘It would have been unjust, indeed inhumane, to continue with the final hearing of applications as significant as those before me.
‘Anyone tempted to suggest that an adjournment was not necessary might care to consider what our reaction would be if an English parent before a foreign court in similar circumstances was not provided with an interpreter,’ he added.
A spokeswoman for Capita said the company could not comment on individual hearings, but said Capita Translation and Interpreting is ‘committed to fulfilling requests for interpreters and translators for all of its clients’.
She said: ‘We have a process in place to advise courts directly if we are unable to meet their requirements. Regrettably, there will be some cases which are held back because of a lack of available interpreters at a specific time.’
She explained Capita does not employ interpreters, all of whom remain self-employed independent contractors, free to accept or reject booking offers as they see fit.
Courts minister Shailesh Vara said: ‘The new interpreting contract was introduced to tackle the inefficiencies and inconsistencies in the previous system — and it has already saved taxpayers £15m in its first year.
‘The contract has delivered significant improvements so far, with record numbers of bookings now being made and fulfilled. We will continue to drive further improvement in performance and better value for the taxpayer.’

Monday, 26 May 2014

Chris Grayling gets a wigging over court translators

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/may/26/chris-grayling-court-translators 
26 May 2014 

Diary: Look who's talking. Chris Grayling gets a wigging over court translators 
They're tardy, tongue-tied. That's if they turn up at all 
We dispense the people's justice, but it isn't easy. Some who come before us speak other languages, so interpreters play an important role here. Therein lies a problem. Last year, MPs castigated the Ministry of Justice for its "shambolic" handling of the court translation contract, which was given to Capita. Interpreters failed to turn up, leading to the cancellation of trials, and others turned up but botched the job. Since then, the news has continued to be sorrowful. Last week it was said that the cost to the taxpayer of hiring court interpreters has almost doubled to £15.5m in just one year. The quality hardly seems to have risen in step, though ministers claim "dramatic improvements" with more work undertaken and big privatisation savings for the taxpayer. Tell that to the judge. One man, charged with perverting the course of justice was accused – via the interpreter – of being a "pervert".

Case adjourned for an interpreter to be arranged

http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/BRIEF/story-21142425-detail/story.html 
26 May 2014

Antonia Lakatos, of Gladstone Street, Basford, is charged with the theft of alcohol and clothing worth £345.15 from Asda, Wolstanton.
The 35-year-old is also accused of going equipped for theft with an item used for de-tagging shop merchandise on March 31. Magistrates at North Staffordshire Justice Centre adjourned the case until May 30 to allow for an interpreter to be arranged.


Friday, 23 May 2014

Sir James Munby criticises Capita's failure to provide interpreters as ordered by court

http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/judgments/in-the-matter-of-j-and-s-children/ 
23 May 2014

"The hearing on 7 May 2014
9. The hearing before me on 7 May 2014 was unable to proceed. Despite the order made by Judge Murdoch, and although HMCTS had, as was subsequently conceded by it, gone through the appropriate procedures with Capita Translation and Interpreting Limited (Capita) to book two interpreters, no interpreter was present at court. I had no choice but to adjourn the hearing. How could I do otherwise? It would have been unjust, indeed inhumane, to continue with the final hearing of applications as significant as those before me – this, after all, was their final opportunity to prevent the adoption of their children – if the parents were unable to understand what was being said. Anyone tempted to suggest that an adjournment was not necessary might care to consider what our reaction would be if an English parent before a foreign court in similar circumstances was not provided with an interpreter.
10. I accordingly adjourned the hearing until 15 May 2014. I directed that HMCTS was to provide two interpreters for that hearing. I directed that Capita’s Relationship Director, Sonia Facchini, file a written statement (with statement of truth) explaining the circumstances in which and the reasons why no interpreters had been provided by Capita for the hearing on 7 May 2014. I gave Capita permission to apply to vary or discharge this order. It chose not to. I reserved the costs of the hearing on 7 May 2014 to the hearing on 15 May 2014 “for consideration of, inter alia, whether Capita should pay such costs.”

Capita
11. Ms Facchini’s statement is dated 14 May 2014. I need not go into the full details. That is a matter for a future occasion. For immediate purposes there are three points demanding notice. The first is that, according to Ms Facchini, the contractual arrangements between Capita and the interpreters it provides do not give Capita the ability to require that any particular interpreter accepts any particular assignment, or even to honour any engagement which the interpreter has accepted. The consequence, apparently, was that in this case the two interpreters who had accepted the assignment (one on 14 and the other on 17 April 2014) later cancelled (on 5 and 1 May 2014 respectively). The second is that it is only at 2pm on the day before the hearing that Capita notifies the court that there is no interpreter assigned. The third is the revelation that on 7 May 2014 Capita had only 29 suitably qualified Slovak language interpreters on its books (only 13 within a 100 miles radius of the Royal Courts of Justice) whereas it was requested to provide 39 such interpreters for court hearings that day. This is on any view a concerning state of affairs. If the consequence is that a hearing such as that before me on 7 May 2014 has to be abandoned then that is an unacceptable state of affairs. It might be thought that something needs to be done.
12. Whether the underlying causes are to be found in the nature of the contract between the Ministry of Justice and HMCTS or whoever and Capita, or in the nature of the contract between Capita and the interpreters it retains, or in the sums paid respectively to Capita and its interpreters, or in an inadequate supply of interpreters (unlikely one might have thought in a language such as Slovak), I do not know. We need to find out."


"An interpreter could not be arranged"

http://www.westerngazette.co.uk/Tamburino-worker-brought-court-custody-Yeovil-sex/story-21133508-detail/story.html
23 May 2014

[…] “After hearing that the defendant had a poor understanding of English and an interpreter could not be arranged for the hearing the district judge refused to take a plea. Prosecutor Judy Morris made an application for Ferrara to be remanded in custody saying that the defendant had previously left the country while the police investigation was being conducted.
“At the time of the offence he was working for Tamburino in Yeovil and he is not local and does not have any local ties,” she said.
The case was adjourned until Tuesday May 27 for an interpreter to be present and for the defendant to enter a plea to the allegation.
In the meantime he was remanded in custody after an application by the defence for him to be released on bail was rejected.” […]

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Court translator costs double in a year

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2634484/Court-translator-costs-double-year-Taxpayers-bill-15million-service-outsourced-branded-shambolic-MPs.html 
21 May 2014

Court translator costs double in a year: Taxpayers' bill now more than £15million after service was outsourced in move branded as 'shambolic' by MPs
The cost to the taxpayer of hiring court interpreters has almost doubled to £15.5million in just one year, according to official figures.
The bill for translators brought in to assist non-English speakers appearing at magistrates or Crown courts for criminal cases soared from £7.9million in 2012.
The figures, uncovered in Freedom of Information responses from the Ministry of Justice, appear to show the rise occurred since services were outsourced to under-fire firm Capita Translation and Interpreting.
They were revealed after the handling of court foreign language services to just one company was branded ‘shambolic’ by MPs amid concerns the change had caused trials to collapse or be delayed.
Farcical episodes that have emerged since privatisation include the case of a man who was charged with perverting the course of justice was instead accused of being a ‘pervert’.
In a burglary case at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London, a retrial was ordered when it emerged that the Romanian interpreter had muddled the words ‘beaten’ and ‘bitten’.
And in Winchester, a murder trial was brought to a halt when the court interpreter confessed he was an unqualified stand-in for his wife, who was busy.
Standards were allegedly so lax that a director of another translation company was able to sign up his cat Masha as a translator – who was then offered jobs.
MPs on the Commons’ Justice Select Committee were told that a ‘catastrophic’ shortage of interpreters had forced courts to rely on Google Translate, a comparatively crude and time-consuming online translation service.
There are around 11,000 foreign nationals in UK prisons, around 13 per cent of the total prison population, with many needing interpreters at numerous court hearings and appeals.
Courts across England used to rely on local interpreters but in January 2012 the former Ministry of Justice controversially handed a monopoly on translating to a private firm, Applied Language Solutions, in an attempt to cut costs.
The company was then bought by Capita TI amid a wave of criticism from the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI), which previously provided courts with language experts.
In the first 18 months of the contract there were 10,000 complaints about the interpreting services it provided.
MPs were told the company had failed to send interpreters to a fifth of trials, sent people speaking the wrong language, or translators who are simply incompetent.
In July last year Lady Butler-Sloss, a retired judge, told the House of Lords there was a massive ‘disruption and delay to criminal trials as a result of serious inaccuracies of court interpreting’.
Five months earlier, the Justice Committee said the privatisation had been ‘shambolic’ and led to cases collapsing and people unnecessarily being remanded in custody.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice confirmed it paid out £15.5million for ‘interpreting and translation services’ to the courts last year compared to £7.9million in 2012.
But he said the FOI response had only identified payments to Capita TI. Because of blunders after the start of the contract, local interpreters were hired on an ad-hoc basis to fill in shortfalls and paid for their services.
The MoJ said the total payments to all interpreters in 2012 exceeded the bill for 2013, although the department said it could not provide documented figures to prove this.
It stated, however, that the new system had seen ‘dramatic improvements’ and that ‘record numbers of booking are now begin made and fulfilled’.
A MoJ source said: ‘During the first year of the contract a lot of things weren’t running brilliantly but since then the whole system has been sorted out.’ 
Courts Minister Shailesh Vara said privatisation had saved taxpayers £15million in 2012-13, its first year.
He said: ‘The new interpreting contract was introduced to tackle the inefficiencies and inconsistencies in the previous system 
‘We have seen dramatic improvements over the life of the contract so far, record numbers of bookings are now being made and fulfilled, and we continue to drive further improvement in performance.’