Lost in translation – court facing interpreter issues

Boston Courthouse.
Boston Courthouse.

SOLICITORS in Boston have argued a new court interpreter service is interfering with justice and human rights, after it caused serious problems to a number of cases.

The contract between the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Manchester-based company Applied Language Solutions (ALS) only came into being at the beginning of the month, but since then numerous cases have been affected.

Many interpreters have not arrived, others have come late, and in one case in another part of the county, the interpreter who arrived did not speak the necessary language.

A number of cases have been unable to go ahead as scheduled, meaning they have been pushed back in the already busy court lists, wasting time and tax payers’ money.

At one such case at Boston Magistrates’ Court (pictured) last week, when an interpreter failed to arrive, solicitor Mark Hudson told magistrates: “Justice is being interfered with from whatever side of the fence you’re sitting on. It’s a nonsense and it’s wrong. There’s human rights issues and lots of other issues here.”

In a recent case heard at the court a bilingual solicitor translated his own representations for his client after he had delivered them to magistrates.

John Storer, from Boston solicitors CDA, told The Standard: “It’s a delay. If there is no interpreter there the case cannot proceed. The knock on effect is going to be an increase in costs. Having wasted hearings, these cases have got to go back in another day.”

On several occasions when ALS interpreters have not arrived, defendants in custody have been in the cells unable to understand what is going on, Mr Storer said.

He added: “ALS said this is teething problems, but this is not a new company. They have been doing this for a long time and just because it’s been extended does not mean it is teething problems.

“It’s not an excuse when you have people in custody.”

ALS said it did not want to comment, but a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “The Government is determined to ensure that taxpayers get value for money across the whole of the justice system. This new contract will save at least £18 million a year on the cost of interpretation and translation, a reduction of almost a third, but will ensure that high quality interpreters and translators are still available to those in need.

“The Ministry of Justice is working with Applied Language Solutions to closely monitor the operation of the new contract.”