Lost in Translation

John with Channel 4 in Fletcher Moss Gardens, being interviewed about the outsourcing of interpreting

It came as no surprise to me to hear that ALS Court Interpreters had not been police checked, as reported by the BBC this morning.

In this parliament and the last, I have campaigned against the outsourcing of Translation and Interpretation Services: in March 2012 I did an interview with Channel 4 on the issue and followed it up with a blog, in October 2010, during the previous parliament, I secured a debate in the House of Commons, and I also gave an interview to the National Network for Interpreting which again was followed up with a blog.

Despite warnings from the profession and from Parliament, the last Labour government decided that it would be wise to outsource the Interpreting services for the police in the North West. This led to a significant rise in the use of unqualified interpreters and a steep drop off in standards. I opposed this move in parliament but sadly the current government has made the same mistake.

The Ministry of Justice put all of their interpreting work out to tender, which included work in court cases. ALS won the contract and are now responsible for finding and paying the interpreters but the vast majority of fully qualified and experienced interpreters on the National Register of Public Sector Interpreters have refused to work for ALS due to the pay and conditions they are being offered.

So now we have a shortage of available interpreters, and many of those available are not capable of handling the complex and demanding work.

I care about this issue because everyone deserves justice. Imagine how you would feel if you were on trial in a foreign country and you couldn’t make your defence because no one could be found who could interpret English correctly for you. Or if you were the victim of a crime and the guilty party escaped justice because of poor interpreting in court?

I am hopeful we can get government to move on this. I met with ministers Lord McNally and Crispin Blunt recently, and I am working with interpreters in my constituency to put forward a portfolio of cases where the service has been inadequate. Today’s story is just the latest in a long line of ones where ALS have not been up to the job.

2 responses to “Lost in Translation

  1. My work takes me to Haverfordwest (Pembrokeshire) Magistrates Court to obtain warrants of entry for gas and electricity. I sometimes sit at the back and see interpreters travel several hundred miles from places like Liverpool.
    How much does it cost to get these interpreters to travel to courts across the country?

    • Does it matter how much it costs, as long as the person whose door is to be kicked in understands why and that it is being done with the approval of a court?

      Yes, there should be more approved interpreters in that area so that travelling costs could be minimised but, as the alternative (not being able to understand the proceedings) may be a violation of the alleged debtor’s human rights, the travelling costs are likely to be less than any damages payable.

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