ALS investigation procedures: do they exist?
The story of the collapsed trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court back in April has gone round many media publications, from specialised to national. The trial collapsed after a Romanian ALS interpreter made a mistake interpreting the defendant’s evidence. As a result, the judge ordered a retrial which could cost around £25,000.
A spokeswoman for Applied Language Solutions, part of Capita plc, which provided the interpreter, said to the BBC that any complaints received would be ‘investigated thoroughly’. Indeed under the Framework Agreement the Contractor says: “We also offer an extremely robust complaints and disciplinary process which ensures that any interpreters that fail to meet our standards are retrained, suspended or dismissed if necessary” (page 138). Page 158 gives a more detailed insight on how ALS is supposed to deal with complaints: “If it’s a minor offence e.g. interpreter being late and it’s their first for the interpreter then a note is added to their file and it is discussed with them. However, a more serious complaint e.g. Interpreter did not attend or quality issues could lead to suspension or a complete stop on using that interpreter. With the smaller issues corrective action is always taken and ongoing monitoring of the interpreter until we feel that this issue will not happen again.”
Last week a colleague observed a case at Waltham Forest Magistrates’ Court. To her surprise, the interpreter booked by ALS was the same interpreter who caused the collapsed trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court back in April. When the colleague asked this interpreter where she knew her from, she claimed she didn’t know anything about it being mentioned in the press.
The colleague reports she spotted a few more mistakes made by this ALS interpreter during the court trial she witnessed last week.
What do we learn from this example then? Despite the largely publicised story and ALS’s disciplinary procedures following bad quality of interpreting, the interpreter was not suspended or removed from their register. I am beginning to think that if they did, they would have no one left, apart from rabbits, cats and dead dogs.