Daily Mail: Farce of £5,000 bill to prosecute Lithuanian who stole two 10p bags
Unleashing the full might of the justice system on a Lithuanian for the theft of two 10p plastic bags might, even in itself, have seemed a little heavy handed.
But when the justice system then got into a muddle over the difference between a Lithuanian and a Latvian, the case descended into farce.
The prosecution of Tadas Tarkutis, 26, for stealing two supermarket ‘bags for life’ has ended up costing taxpayers £5,000 – after a blunder in which the wrong translator was sent to court.
The Lithuanian national was arrested for the theft from Sainsbury’s on Wednesday last week and detained by police.
But when he went to court the following day, a Latvian-speaking interpreter was accidentally sent instead of a Lithuanian speaker and the hearing had to be postponed.
Tarkutis then spent a second night in custody before returning to Scarborough Magistrates’ Court for another hearing, after a translator who spoke the correct language had been found.
A court source commented afterwards: ‘It’s like someone somewhere had just picked out a country that begins with “L”. It’s ridiculous.’
By this time the estimated bill for keeping Tarkutis in custody and dealing with his case had risen to around £3,000.
He admitted stealing the bags from the supermarket in Scarborough, North Yorkshire.
But because he was in breach of a suspended sentence for a previous crime he was jailed for six weeks – of which he will serve half – adding a further £2,000 to the public’s bill for holding him in prison.
He was not ordered to pay any contribution to court costs or for the stolen 10p bags.
The Crown Prosecution Service said the jail sentence validated its decision to bring the case to court. Tarkutis’s previous offence, for which he was given the suspended jail term, was not revealed but is believed to be theft.
After the case, Andy Silvester of the Taxpayers’ Alliance said: ‘Criminals must always be brought to justice, but this seems a remarkable amount of taxpayers’ money to spend on a rather minor case.
‘Ordinary people rightly expect justice, but they don’t expect it to cost over the odds. Avoidable errors have only put the cost up more.’
After Tarkutis – a Lithuanian national said to have been living in Birmingham – was arrested for stealing the bags, officers summoned a Lithuanian translator to make the 60-mile trip from Harrogate to Scarborough to enable him to be questioned.
The interpreter spent around four hours with him before returning home. But the same person was not available to translate for him in court the following morning, and Capita TI, the translation services firm contracted to provide interpreters for court cases, sent a Latvian-speaking woman instead.
Due to a shortage of Latvian speakers, this interpreter made a 160-mile, three-hour trip from Rugby in Warwickshire, only to discover she couldn’t do the job.
Magistrates realised what had happened and apologised, before advising the translator to ensure she still got paid.
Tarkutis spent another night in police custody, and when he was brought back to court on Friday a Lithuanian interpreter had finally been found.
Yesterday a Capita spokesman blamed police for the blunder: ‘Capita Translation and Interpreting supplied a Latvian interpreter on May 29 because the police booked a Latvian interpreter.
‘When the magistrates’ court realised the error they informed us that a Lithuanian interpreter was required instead.
‘We therefore supplied a Lithuanian interpreter on May 30.’
A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: ‘We will be working with Capita to look into the full circumstances as to why the wrong interpreter attended court.’
Official figures released last month show the cost to the taxpayer of hiring court interpreters under the outsourcing deal has almost doubled to £15.5million in just one year.
There are around 11,000 foreign nationals in UK prisons – about 13 per cent of the total population – and many require interpreters at court hearings and appeals.