£17 million lost in translation
16th December 2013
Figures for the thousands of court case delays caused by Capita failing to supply interpreters show that over £17 million pounds of tax payers’ money has been lost since the contract began.
642 trials failed in 2012 as a result of the contract and complaints figures for 2013, published in October by the Ministry of Justice, reveal an increase in cases where interpreters are failing to appear when requested by courts. There have been 9,800 official complaints since the contract began on 30 January 2012, with higher numbers of complaints in the second part of 2013 compared to 2012.
Professional Interpreters for Justice, an umbrella group for professional interpreter organisations, estimates that court time costing £10.8 million was lost in 2012 and £6.7 million in 2013 up to November.
Geoffrey Buckingham, Chairman, Association of Police and Court Interpreters, says: “£17 million lost in court time is a shameful waste of tax payers’ money and makes a mockery of the claims by Government that £15 million of savings were made in year one.”
The group, which aims to work in partnership with the Ministry of Justice to safeguard quality in justice sector interpreting, has in addition collected its own examples of nearly 1,000 instances where interpreters were not available, or arrived late or caused other delays, amounting to 366 days of wasted court and tribunal time. These represent a snapshot of the overall picture.
Professional Interpreters for Justice attended a workshop with the Ministry of Justice where the group were invited to provide their input to the scope of the independent assessment of quality in the language service contract. The Ministry of Justice has now issued an Invitation to Tender for the independent review.
Paul Wilson, Chief Executive, Institute of Translation and Interpreting, says: “The Ministry of Justice has finally begun its work on commissioning the independent review, which we hope will be independent, authoritative and substantive. We will then be looking to the new Justice Minister to act on the recommendations.”
In a new independent survey of over 1,000 interpreters commissioned by Professional Interpreters for Justice and carried out by consultants Involvis, only 26% said they are working for Capita TI and 77% of these said their experience of the private contractor is negative. A high proportion (68%) said they are not being treated fairly or respectfully and only 17% said they had been offered training.
Typical comments about Capita were “poor experience led me to avoid them at all cost” or “low rate, unprofessional staff and no understanding of the nature of interpreters’ work and role”, or “staff are rude, no structure at distributing jobs etc.”
Keith Moffitt, Chairman, Chartered Institute of Linguists, said: “The majority of professionally qualified and experienced justice sector interpreters will not work for Capita on principle and it appears that those that are working for them are feeling mistreated. Meanwhile the number of complaints is rising and our country’s reputation for delivering justice and the right to a fair trial is in jeopardy.”
1,172 interpreters took part in the online survey in October 2013. This was the fifth in a series of similar surveys commissioned by Professional Interpreters for Justice over the past two years.