£17million lost in translation: Taxpayers landed with huge bill for migrants up in court
The UK taxpayer was forced to foot a £17million bill for hiring interpreters and translators for foreigners involved in court cases last year, according to official statistics.
The bill for helping non-English speakers appearing at magistrates or crown courts for criminal cases soared 42 per cent in two years.
Figures published by the Ministry of Justice show the sums spent rose from just over £12million in 2012/13 to £16million a year later and £17.2million in 2014/15.
The £45million paid to under-fire government contract giant Capita over the past three years covers the cost of face-to-face interpreting in court, translating legal documents and telephone interpretation.
Details of the full scale of the cost of dealing with foreigners involved in the court process either as defendants, witnesses or victims, provoked fury from campaigners.
They come after huge concerns about the "shambolic" way Capita Translation and Interpreting has handled the £300million contract.
Tory MP, David Davies, who uncovered the figures said: "We are constantly being told that the large-scale immigration that is going on has economic benefits. But is also has economic costs. These court interpreting figures are one more example.
"I would like to see immigration cut and a proper cost and benefit analysis of migration which would take into account these type of costs."
Jonathan Isaby of the Taxpayers Alliance said: "No area of government spending can be immune from necessary pay restraint, and this bill is increasing swiftly.
"Everybody deserves a fair shot at justice, but we have to think of ways to bring this rapidly increasing bill down, including scheduling cases next to each other if the same interpreter can do two or three in a row.
"We also have to be sure that every individual claiming help for translation absolutely needs it."
Figures published in response to a parliamentary question showed that the overwhelming majority of the cost for each of the past three years goes in face-to-face interpreting.
Just £50,000 of the multi-million pound annual bills goes on document translation and telephone interpreting in each of the last three years on average.
Farcical episodes revealing the abuse of the free interpreter system include the case last year of three Romanian cash machine crooks. They insisted on £60-an-hour translator for their five-day trial, claiming they could not follow proceedings without her.
But when the judge tried to delay their sentencing because the interpreter had failed to show up on the final day, the trio admitted they spoke better English than her.
Capita took over the service in 2012 after it bought another firm, ALS, which had been awarded the contract.
The private outsourcing company was slammed for its "shambolic" handling of the contract which saw court cases across the country held up or collapse because of translating failures.
Earlier this year the firm was fined £16,000 by a High Court judge for its "lamentable" failure to provide interpreters seven times in the course of a single adoption case.
The Ministry of Justice last night defended the rocketing interpreting bill saying the contract had saved the department money overall.
Courts Minister Shailesh Vara said: "Before 2012, courts arranged interpreter contracts on an individual basis.
The Government has taken steps to ensure the system provides value for taxpayers by agreeing a national contract.
Demand for these services has grown as awareness increases amongst court and tribunal users.
"Since we introduced a new interpreting contract in 2012 we have spent £38.2million less on language service fees."
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “Our new interpreting contract has cut costs significantly .
“Up to 2012, interpreters were booked by individual courts and there was no central control or coordination.
This system cost around £30 million a year - almost double the amount we spent last year.
“We now have a quality service, delivered through a central contract, allowing us to spend £38 million less than we would otherwise have spent.”