Guardian Diary: Look who's talking. Chris Grayling gets a wigging over court translators
• We dispense the people's justice, but it isn't easy. Some who come before us speak other languages, so interpreters play an important role here. Therein lies a problem. Last year, MPs castigated the Ministry of Justice for its "shambolic" handling of the court translation contract, which was given to Capita. Interpreters failed to turn up, leading to the cancellation of trials, and others turned up but botched the job. Since then, the news has continued to be sorrowful. Last week it was said that the cost to the taxpayer of hiring court interpreters has almost doubled to £15.5m in just one year. The quality hardly seems to have risen in step, though ministers claim "dramatic improvements" with more work undertaken and big privatisation savings for the taxpayer. Tell that to the judge. One man, charged with perverting the course of justice was accused – via the interpreter – of being a "pervert".
• Funny until it isn't, and the president of the family division, Sir James Munby, has had enough. Last week, when attention was focused on the elections and Ukip, Ukip, Ukip, he raised a voice. Hats off to the law site suesspiciousminds for noticing. Munby presided over a custody case that required a Slovak interpreter. A "very sad case", he called it. The interpreter failed to show, and when he complained he learned truths so shocking that he detailed them in the judgment. He learned that Capita took the government's money to provide the interpreter, farmed out the work and could eschew liability if the translator didn't turn up. That if it had to cancel, it could do so as late as 2pm on the day before the hearing, at which point it would often be impossible to find a replacement. And that on the day of his ruined hearing, Capita had only 29 suitably qualified Slovak language interpreters when it needed 39 to meet its obligations. So much for the supremacy of the market.
• Takes a lot to make a top judge go public, but Munby didn't mince his words. "Whether the underlying causes are to be found in the nature of the contract between the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty's Courts translation services or whoever and Capita, or in the nature of the contract between Capita and the interpreters it retains, or in the sums paid respectively to Capita and its interpreters, or in an inadequate supply of interpreters (unlikely one might have thought in a language such as Slovak), I do not know. We need to find out." Something for Chris Grayling to crack on with, one would think. Wouldn't like to see him hauled before the beak.