Bournemouth Magistrates’: ALS Failings
At the end of January, Bournemouth Magistrates’ scheduled a trial for a Russian-speaking person for yesterday.
Meanwhile this person was arrested overnight for breaching his bail, and brought the next day to court on 12 March with no interpreter present. The Court tried to find one and couldn’t. The court asked the duty solicitor how good his English was. The duty solicitor could not say.
The guy was remanded in custody until his trial – which was scheduled at the end of January.
Yesterday I got a call from Bournemouth Magistrates’ to come along – which I refused. Then, feeling a bit nervous, I decided to go and see what was happening. However, when I got there, everyone in court was sympathetic. And this is what they told me:
The trial was scheduled for 10:00. No ALS interpreter turned up. The court kept calling ALS, it was very difficult to get through to them, and when you do get hold of them, they will answer your first question and then put the phone down before you have a chance to ask a another one.
ALS told the court that an interpreter, who was coming to this trial (Dr somebody) called ALS at 08:50 to tell them that his car had broken down. When the Court rep asked ALS why they did not tell them that the interpreter could not make it, ALS replied that his phone had kept breaking up.
The user and solicitor I was chatting with were laughing about this.
After that the court got authority to call interpreters directly. I got a call from them at about 10:50, and I know an interpreter in Gloucestershire was then called and refused. After not getting anyone from the NRPSI the Court called ALS again and now they said they would supply an interpreter for 12:30 – and they did.
The ALS Russian interpreter did not do simultaneous interpreting, but listened and then talked. In my opinion, the way she interpreted the word "bail" was wrong, and she struggled with some technical things.
This guy’s hearing started finally at about 14:50 – the witnesses had been waiting all day. The trial had to now be adjourned by another four weeks and it will be a Newton hearing.
I spoke with the prosecutor – if ALS had provided on time they guy would have had his trial yesterday. He would remain in custody – but for three weeks rather that four awaiting a pre-sentence report. So this guy will spend an extra week on remand because of ALS.
A few other things I learnt yesterday:
Either on Monday or Tuesday a Romanian was caught shoplifting and kept overnight in custody. The next day ALS did not provide an interpreter for him, so he was kept on remand. This guy had no previous convictions. The next day a Romanian interpreter was dealing with another case in court. She agreed to interpret for this guy as well. This guy got an apology from the Judge because he was kept on remand due to there being no interpreter.
Yesterday no Portuguese interpreter was at Bournemouth Magistrates despite the need, and I believe this was also the case for Romanian.
The Court people were telling me how bad things are. There are no slips in solicitor rooms for how to complain about ALS. I even offered to go and talk to people in the office. One usher kindly took me to the office, she went in, came out and told me all complaints were going to the management.