Hopes of snaring foreign suspects lost in translation
FOREIGN suspects are walking free from police custody because of a shortage of interpreters.
Detectives are forced to bail possible criminals because they cannot get help interviewing non-English speakers.
The chaos is blamed on a private firm, Applied Language Solutions, which took up a new contract providing interpreters for the Ministry of Justice. It said it was going to save the MoJ up to £60million over five years.
Five police forces – Greater Manchester, West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Lancashire – signed contracts with the Oldham-based agency.
Earlier this week, Home Office minister Crispin Blunt condemned the “unacceptable” delays the new service was creating in courtrooms. But yesterday, it emerged that the problems had spread to police stations.
An insider at West Midlands police said suspects were being released because ALS was unable to send an interpreter within the time limit for holding people without charge. The officer said: “There have been some difficulties. The company is recruiting some more people but it has not been what was hoped for.”
I know of a number of police officers who want to speak out about this issue but can’t for the sake of their jobs
Madeleine Lee of the Professional Interpreters’ Alliance
The force brought in ALS in a bid to slash its £2million annual translation bill but now it has to pay for more expensive freelance interpreters.
A West Midlands spokesman admitted some suspects had been bailed but insisted they had all returned for questioning at a later date.
None of the other forces with ALS contracts would comment.
However, Madeleine Lee of the Professional Interpreters’ Alliance said she had similar stories from her members in other parts of the country.
She said: “I know of a number of police officers who want to speak out about this issue but can’t for the sake of their jobs. They have to bail a lot of people without charge because of the custody time limits for investigations.”
Last night, a spokeswoman for ALS said: “We continue to work closely with the MoJ to monitor the service and investigate any complaints.
“As a result we have implemented a number of significant improvements and increased our resources considerably in the last two weeks in order to improve performance. Assigning qualified and experienced linguists to assignments and insisting on continuous professional development, while reducing operational inefficiencies, remains the focus of our service.”
An MoJ spokesman said: “There have been an unacceptable number of problems in the first weeks of the contract and we have asked the contractor to take urgent steps to improve performance. They have put measures in place to resolve these issues and we have already seen a marked improvement.”