FOI requests on ALS court interpreting: answers remain hidden
A couple of responses by the Ministry of Justice to Freedom of Information requests in relation to court interpreting statistics have been published on this site and represent only an example of such responses. A number of people received the same standard response from the MoJ stating they hold the information asked for but refuse to disclose it as it would cost more than 600 pounds and take more than 3 and a half days to collate data.
They quote such costs even in relation to one simple question about one court. The question was straightforward: “How many cases have been adjourned by Birmingham Crown Court where no interpreter was provided since the ALS contract went live on 30 January 2012?”
A few days ago another response to another FOI request came to light, where the MoJ admit they collect a range of information to assist with the monitoring of performance by Applied Language Solutions (ALS) and this includes:
- Daily fulfilment rates by venue and by language;
- Daily figures on no. of bookings made, assigned, short notice and unfilled;
- Daily figures on cumulative no. of assignments to date and no. of planned assignments booked into future.
In addition to the information described above, the following data is also supplied with regard to ALS’s performance:
- Weekly data on fulfilment rates by venue and by language; and
- Weekly data on complaints.
If all this information is collated centrally with details by venue, i.e. court, how can they claim in their answers to other requests that “the central record of cases involving interpreters at courts does not go into the level of detail you ask for. Providing these details would require a manual search of the files relating to each case heard to establish whether an interpreter was used”. Isn’t all of this covered in fulfilment rates by venue and by language or is the MoJ relying solely on the information provided to them by the contractor itself again, i.e. Applied Language Solutions?
Furthermore, last week the MoJ released a disclosure log of FOI requests which makes an interesting reading. For example, a request for information with three (3) questions across the whole Tribunal Service received a detailed answer. The information requested concerns Year 2011, before ALS started the contract. Even a request with five (5!) questions on court interpreting statistics before ALS took over was honoured by the MoJ’s Data Access and Compliance Unit.
I have now no doubt in my mind that the MoJ’s refusal to release details of court interpreting figures for this year, i.e. while ALS has been in operation, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, is nothing but an attempt to hide a picture which looks ugly, if not incredibly bad. ALS is struggling to deliver under the Contract, and someone is trying hard to keep quiet about it.