Courts need to be clearly understood
Judge Jonathan Durham Hall did not hold back when he criticised failings in the new system to provide translators during court proceedings for both defendants and witnesses, branding one particular instance a ‘disgrace’.
The Bradford judge is quite right to express his concerns so vociferously, particularly as the case in question involved a vulnerable woman who had allegedly been sexually molested and physically assaulted.
His comments are the latest in a series of criticisms by judges and solicitors following the awarding of the contract to provide interpreters to a private company, ALS.
The move was designed to save £18m a year for the Ministry of Justice.
And, as with any change, there have been teething problems as the way the process for translators being provided in court changes.
But the British justice system is renowned around the world for its fairness, and it is vital that vulnerable people who do not speak English are able to understand the proceedings – and, even more importantly, have their voices heard.
In the case that caused Judge Durham Hall concerns, he came close to having to discharge the jury. That would have resulted in cost implications, but even more significantly, it would have increased the trauma to the alleged victim in particular.
As a result, he has demanded a full explanation from ALS.
Hopefully, they will be able to provide a satisfactory one, convincing the judge that this was a relatively rare incident of a type that will be reduced still further as the company beds down.
But it is vital that our legal professionals continue to monitor the issue, which should help to sharpen ALS’s resolve to iron out problems.