Courts Receive Help from Other Agencies as ALS Fails – Is this what the Framework Agreement is About?
On 1st February all courts in England and Wales started using foreign language interpreters booked by a “one stop” commercial company - Applied Language Solutions. Of course, even with the “smoke and mirrors” tactic used by Gavin Wheeldon, the man behind the now notorious company, everything has turned out exactly as predicted by people who actually knew something about interpreting – interpreters themselves and their representative bodies: not only that ALS are unable to supply the required number of interpreters, causing adjournments, aborted trials, defendants being kept in custody for extensive periods of time, but also the ones who actually manage to turn up in court are usually “crowdsourced”, unqualified and with no security checks to their name.
A couple of weeks into disastrous attempts by ALS to supply HM Courts with different language interpreters, it became clear even to the MoJ that this task is far above them. A decision was then made to revert to the National Register for short notice bookings. I shall not comment on the moral aspect of such a decision. No wonder only negligible numbers of registered interpreters were happy to accept such a humiliating offer. Our refusal to oblige and step in till ALS manage to recruit more so-called linguists was not taken well by the MoJ. There have been attempts to put the blame for their catastrophic performance at the “unruly” RPSIs’ door.
The public may well think that all is not as bad in courts as it looks. I would like to draw everybody’s attention to one more factor preventing the courts from a total standstill: the huge number of translation/interpretation companies which have been unofficially given the green light to supply their interpreters for courts. No official document or speech has ever indicated the possibility of involving any other agency but ALS. However, in some courts you can hardly see any interpreter other than an agency one.
What is my problem with those agencies? You don’t want me to go on for hours, so, in a nutshell:
1) Interpreters on their lists are mostly unqualified and thus would not be able to work in courts as freelancers;
2) Very often they mismatch languages; especially Russian language interpreters are used for Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian nationals. The defendants have to get by somehow, though to the younger generation Russian is a foreign language, same as English, leaving a large scope for miscarriages of justice;
3) Qualified interpreters never get to work in the courts where those agencies seem to have some kind of agreement with listings officers or court clerks.
My colleagues would especially like to get to know why Nafisa O’Brien’s agency Language Group has been the main supplier of interpreters in most East London Courts, mainly using Russian interpreters for all languages they can get away with. What was the legal background of those arrangements and who was this contract indorsed by?
The list of agencies (we might have omitted a few), which are known to have called NRPSI interpreters to book them for courts all over the country, looks as follows:
- Absolute Translations
- Applied Experts
- Atlas Translations
- Gloria Ogborn Signing
- Kwintessential Ltd
- Language Group
- Language Is Everything
- Language Line Services
- Legal Services Translation
- Lomer Translations and Interpreting Ltd
- Prestige Network
- Reliance Translation
- RL Translations
- Sign Solutions
- Sussex Interpreting Services SIS
- Today Translations
- Translation World
- UK Language Solutions
- Verbatim Interpreters Ltd
- Welcome Translations
- Wessex Translations
ALS is not capable of being the “one-stop” agency; this is obvious to everybody working in the UK Justice System. Unwillingness to admit it will only lead to more financial losses and damage to the delivery of justice.