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Thursday, 25 February 2021

PQ: 25th February 2021


Courts and Tribunals: Interpreters

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 25th February 2021.

Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what guidance his Department provides to courts and tribunals on the employment of interpreters.

Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of trends in the level of use of unregistered interpreters in courts and tribunals.

Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what safeguards his Department has put in place to ensure that interpreters used in court and tribunal hearings are qualified to undertake the role.

Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is committed to ensuring the justice system is supported by a suite of high-quality language service contracts, that meet the needs of all those that require them.

The MoJ does not directly employ interpreters. We commission the services of suitably qualified interpreters through contracted service providers, thebigword and Clarion Interpreting.

Detailed guidance and training modules are provided to courts and tribunals staff responsible for booking interpreters through the MoJ’s Language Services to ensure they follow the correct processes and book suitably qualified interpreters.

Interpreters provided by our contracted language service providers are sourced from the MoJ’s register. Only interpreters that meet the department’s contractual requirements are included on the register, which is managed and audited by an independent language service provider.

The MoJ regularly reviews the level of unfulfilled bookings, which may result in the use of interpreters not sourced from the departmental register, to identify trends and to require remedial action to be taken where appropriate. Fulfilment of bookings remains consistent at circa 97%, with the main reason for unfulfillment being short notice bookings of a rare language requirement.

The contract has a clearly defined list of qualifications, skills, experience and vetting requirements interpreters must meet, which have been designed to meet the needs of the justice system. All interpreters are also required to complete a justice system specific training course before they are permitted to join the MoJ’s interpreter register.

The contract sets out the minimum level of qualification and experience a language professional is required to have in order to work on each complexity level of booking. Details of these qualifications can be found at: https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Notice/975cb99e-fec6-430f-8f31-fd532a907137

The MoJ’s contracted service provider is required to hold evidence of these credentials, which are subject to an additional safeguard in the form of an annual audit conducted by the department’s contracted provider of independent language service quality assurance, The Language Shop (part of the London Borough of Newham).

The Language Shop make regular and independent assessments of interpreters carrying out assignments via the MoJ’s language services contracts. This includes a check of the qualifications held by the interpreter to ensure they meet the requirements of the contract between the department and the supplier.

Complaints about the quality of interpreting or professional conduct are referred to The Language Shop for independent assessment. Interpreters are suspended from the MoJ register pending the outcome and are not reinstated unless The Language Shop confirms that the requisite standards have been met.

The complaint rate is monitored closely as part of robust contract governance processes. The rate remains low at less than 1%, which suggests there is no systemic issue with the quality of interpreting provided.


Wednesday, 24 February 2021

PQ: 24th February 2021


Coronavirus: Vaccination

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 24th February 2021.

Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the potential merits of including Registered Public Service Interpreters in the list of occupations the Government classes as key workers for the purposes of priority access to covid-19 vaccination.

Nadhim Zahawi Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The Department of Health and Social Care has indicated that it will not be possible to answer this question within the usual time period. An answer is being prepared and will be provided as soon as it is available.

Monday, 22 February 2021

CPS to write to defence teams linked to unqualified court interpreter


22 February 2021 by Monidipa Fouzder

CPS to write to defence teams linked to unqualified court interpreter

The Crown Prosecution Service will write to defence teams in cases linked to an unqualified court interpreter so they can consider whether to take further action, the Gazette has learned.

Last week City of London Police reported that Mirwais Patang, 27, of Hillingdon, stole the identity of a court interpreter and provided services to the courts in 140 cases despite having no qualifications to do so. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, at Southwark Crown Court. He must also complete 300 hours of unpaid work. 

The Ministry of Justice told the Gazette that it has identified all the cases where Patang was booked to provide services. They all took place before July 2016. The CPS will be writing to defence teams in the criminal cases linked to Patang.

An MoJ spokesperson said: ‘Since 2016, interpreters have been subject to robust checks on their identity, employment history and qualifications, which are then further scrutinised and quality-assured by an independent contractor.’

The ministry said it has a separate contract with the Language Shop to quality-assure the translation and interpretation service provided under the language services contracts. This includes a rolling audit of language professionals who undertake work on behalf of the MoJ and real-time assessments of interpreters.

Meanwhile, the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI), an independent, voluntary regulator, has written to the ministry with its concerns and recommendations. The NRPSI was set up in 1994 following a recommendation by the Runciman Royal Commission on Criminal Justice.

A national register of the highest qualified interpreters has existed for 27 years; more than 90% of those registered are qualified to honours degree level (level 6) or above in the skills required to work in a public service setting.

NRPSI is calling for interpreters already registered with the national register to be used by the criminal justice system. Its letter also proposes extending the registration and regulation process to public service interpreters at levels 3 and 4 to stabilise ‘what seems to be a “Wild West” situation where bilinguals with absolutely no training are entering the ecosystem and then being used in public service interpreting roles for which they are not trained, qualified and do not have the experience’.


Thursday, 18 February 2021

Daughter had to tell her deaf father he was dying as hospital couldn't get sign language interpreter


18th February 2021

A daughter had to tell her deaf father that he had just weeks to live because the hospital couldn’t get a sign language interpreter for him.

The man, known only as Ronnie, died two weeks after discovering he had terminal cancer. While in hospital he couldn’t lip read as staff wore masks and he was left frightened and isolated.

His wife Sue, who is also deaf, shared the heartbreaking story as part of an awareness campaign with Healthwatch Sheffield and Citizens Advice Sheffield. […]


Friday, 12 February 2021

‘Extremely poor’: Translator conned his way into court role based on bogus qualifications


12th February 2021

‘Extremely poor’: Translator conned his way into court role based on bogus qualifications

An interpreter with “extremely poor” translation skills conned his way into a job in London’s courts and tribunals on the basis of forged qualifications, a court heard.

Mirwais Patang, 27, translated for defendants in dozens of cases over more than four years despite having no formal training, and submitted bogus timesheets to boost his earnings.

He got the job with contractor Capita when he was just 18-years-old, forging a certificate to convince bosses he was trained to interpret Pashto and Dari.

Patang then assumed the identity of his older brother - a genuine interpreter – to fraudulently claim he had improved his qualifications and could work as a Tier 1 translator.

He was eventually caught out after helping a second bogus interpreter, Solimann David, 27, to get work on an Old Bailey criminal trial about a child sex ring.

The ruse was exposed when Patang tried to overcharge for David’s work, submitting payment claims with the forged signature of the court clerk in the case, Southwark crown court heard today.

An investigation then uncovered the extent of Patang’s fraud, between March 2012 and October 2016, with an expert called in to assess court recordings finding Patang’s translation efforts were “poor” or “extremely poor”.

The court heard the Crown Prosecution Service is disclosing details of Patang’s illegal activities to legal teams in the cases he worked on, raising the possibility of a string of appeals.

Judge Phillip Bartle QC today sentenced Patang to two years in prison suspended for two years, and ordered him to carry out 300 hours of community service.

David was sentenced to a six-month suspended sentence, with 100 hours of community service and rehabilitation session, with the judge telling him: “Public confidence in the criminal justice system will have been impacted by the fact you pretended to be somebody who you were not, and pretended to be a qualified interpreter when you clearly were not.”

But he added that in contrast to Patang, David’s interpreting skills during the Old Bailey trial had later been analysed and passed as “good”.

“This has been a long and complex investigation with further fraudulent activity and deceit being uncovered at every twist and turn”, said Detective Andy Cope, from the City of London Police’s fraud team.

The blind greed shown by Patang, and the total disregard for the implications of his actions and what it might mean for the integrity of serious criminal trials, is truly appalling.

“By thinking of only his own financial gain, he has undermined confidence in the criminal justice system and put victims of crime through unfair stress and worry."

The court heard Patang used his own name to initially get a job with Capita, providing a forged qualification certificate to be hired as a Tier 3 interpreter.

He assumed his older brother’s identity in 2014 and used another forged certificate to be upgraded to Tier 1 work.

He worked on 140 cases, at crown courts, magistrates court, tribunals, and county courts around the Greater London area, with the total loss to the courts service assessed at more than £75,000.

Patang was caught out over-claiming for work at Watford magistrates court in November 2012, when he tried to bill for a full day’s work when the case had been adjourned.

Despite this incident he kept the job and repeated the trick of claiming money for more hours than he had actually worked.

The fraud unraveled after David turned up in Patang’s place for the trial of six men accused of operating a child sex ring in Aylesbury, and the timesheets submitted were spotted as bogus.

Patang, whose sister is a barrister, had forged the signature of the trial clerk who had taken two weeks’ leave, the court heard.

Jeremy Benson QC, prosecuting, said Patang’s phone had been set to automatically wipe when seized by police, and there was no trace at his home of paperwork relating to his interpreting job.

“It was clear he had been tipped off that the police had become involved”, he said.

Patang wrote a letter to the judge calling his actions “stupid” and “na├»ve”, but was told: “I’m sure he knew exactly what he was doing.”

However the judge imposed a suspended sentence as Patang is the sole carer for his mother and he found a realistic prospect of rehabilitation. Patang, from Hillingdon, admitted three counts of forgery, eight charges of fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit fraud.

David, also from Hillingdon, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud.




Monday, 8 February 2021

Court interpreter firm lands contract extension


8 February 2021

Court interpreter firm lands contract extension

Language services company thebigword has announced that its contract to provide courtroom services has been renewed for three years – without a competitive tender.

Thebigword took over from Capita Translation and Interpreting in October 2016 to provide face-to-face interpretation and translation (including telephone and video), and translation and transcription.

Asked if other companies were invited to bid, the Ministry of Justice told the Gazette that the initial contract was for four years with an opportunity for an extension, so the contract did not need to be retendered.

Under the MoJ contract, thebigword said it has supported almost 25,000 users across the UK in 143 different languages, and its success rate has not dipped below 97.6% in the past 12 months. The key performance target under the contract is 98%. […]


Monday, 1 February 2021

PQ: 1st February 2021


British Armed Forces: Iraqi Interpreters - Question

– in the House of Lords at 1:18 pm on 1st February 2021.

Baroness Coussins Crossbench 1:18 pm, 1st February 2021

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of reports that Iraqi interpreters are being targeted by militia groups because of their work with foreign militaries; and what steps they are taking to protect such interpreters who have worked for the British Armed Forces.


Lord Lancaster of Kimbolton Conservative

My Lords, I start by recognising what great champions the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Stirrup, have been for the rights of interpreters for many years, as I experienced myself during my time as a Defence Minister. While I understand why the Government have delegated the responsibility of contracting interpreters to private companies, such as thebigword, will my noble friend reassure me that the Government have not also delegated their duty of care?