Financial Times: Interpreting deal under fire
Justice ministers are under increasing pressure to reconsider a £300m private sector court interpreters’ contract after mistakes that have caused trials to be cancelled, hearings delayed and defendants misinformed, writes Helen Warrell.
Yesterday it also emerged that more than 40 interpreters recruited by Applied Language Solutions, a company owned by Capita, the outsourcing group, had not undergone required security checks.
Since ALS took control of all justice interpreting services in January, there have been more than 2,000 official complaints about staff being poorly trained and turning up long after their appointed times.
Particularly embarrassing incidents include a Crown Court trial being adjourned when an interpreter sent her unqualified husband to work in her place and owners of a cat that had been signed up as a prank as a “feline language specialist”, being asked by ALS to bring their pet along for a language assessment.
Emily Thornberry, a Labour MP who has been critical of the Ministry of Justice’s management of the contract, has written to the attorney-general in protest at the latest problems.
“I think [the MoJ] need to look at whether or not this company is fulfilling its contract and if not, the remedy would be to negate the deal or get money back,” Ms Thornberry said.
Only 13 per cent of the 2,300 fully qualified interpreters on the MoJ’s original register work for ALS because many consider the fees, which represent a pay cut of about 60 per cent, are too low.
ALS said on Thursday that its performance was “continuing to improve”.
The MoJ acknowledged that there had been an “unacceptable number of problems” at the start of the new contract but said it had recently seen a “significant improvement” in performance and a reduction in complaints.
Copyright: Financial Times, Friday, 10th August 2012, Page 4