10/04/12 Snaresbrook Crown Court - more ALS failures
I attended Snaresbrook Crown Court on 10 April 2012 to observe the performance of ALS, the contractor for the provision of interpreting services to the Courts. The first case on the list of Court No 1 at 10.00 am was the PCMH (Plea and Case Management Hearing) hearing of a Somali defendant and the court clerk announced that the ALS interpreter was booked but did not attend. The brother of the defendant was there to accompany him and he speaks English. Before the judge came in to the court room, the counsel for the defence explained to the defendant (through his brother) that the interpreter booked did not turn up and the case would be heard with the help of the brother. The hearing was adjourned to 22nd May 2012.
The judge came in to the court room, aware of the situation and said: "It is intolerable that the defendant's sitting in the dock and not knowing what is being said or going on. All I can express is that I regret we have to work in these circumstances". The counsel for defence said: "I came to this court for the same case on 12th March 2012 and again there was no ALS interpreter. The case was adjourned for today and yet again there is no interpreter from ALS".
The second case in the morning of Court No 1 was for a Turkish defendant, another PCMH hearing, there was an Iranian or Azerbaijani interpreter who had a very poor command of Turkish and a rather poor command of English. It was clear that he had no experience, training or qualification as he struggled to read the interpreter's oath. It was also clear that he had no idea about his role in the court room as an interpreter. When the judge and the court clerk were addressing the defendant in a clearly audible level of voice, the interpreter should also be speaking in the same level of voice so that everything is recorded into the audio system. But the interpreter chose to whisper, so that nothing was audible, nothing was recorded and this is also unacceptable and unprofessional. The hearing is adjourned to 18th May 2012.
After the hearing finished I left the court room to speak to the person who purported to be the interpreter and introduced myself to him in a friendly manner and said I was an NRPSI registered interpreter and told him my name. He didn't even want to tell me his name. I had a chat with him for 5 minutes in English and Turkish, mixed, that is when I had a better understanding of his level of incompetency.
I also spoke with Ms. Sarah Abraham, a barrister who mainly works for the CPS as a prosecutor, who also described her experience as "the No Show of ALS interpreters is causing a lot of difficulties in the courts and the way the cases are run".