Interpreting firm is stripped of its police contract
- Gateshead firm ITL received £1.1 million from three police forces in North-East
- This is despite one of their translators causing a case to collapse in August 2016
- Same translator was then used again at a modern slavery case two years later
- The trial was delayed by three weeks while other interpreters re-did his work
An interpreting firm has been stripped of its police contract after 'unqualified' translators led one case to collapse when an employee told a teenage suspect 'not to say too much'.
Interpreting firm ITL, based in Gateshead, received £1.1 million from three police forces in the North East despite hiring 'appallingly inadequate' translators, a BBC investigation has revealed.
One interpreter, Czech national Jan Kartak, was not able to explain a police caution in full to a juvenile suspect in a case where a woman had been allegedly drugged and raped.
His co-accused were Jioi Istok, 37, and Michal Cina, 30 who were on trial for blackmail.
But the case collapsed in August 2016 due to inconsistencies found in the transcription when it was reviewed by a highly-qualified translator.
In a reconstruction of an interview broadcast by the BBC, a police officer asked the suspect: 'In relation to the offences you've been arrested for, are you responsible for them?'
Kartak translated this as 'The things they told you, have you got anything to do with them, no?
'He said, don't tell me them much, just tell me what I ask you'.
A new jury was sworn in and Istok and Cina were later jailed for a total of seven years. The juvenile suspect was then acquitted.
The interpreter who reviewed Kartak's translation said she was 'absolutely horrified' by the quality of his 'appallingly inadequate' English.
She said: 'He wasn't asking what the police officer was asking, he was advising the suspect.'
Despite this incident, Kartak was then used again in a modern slavery case in Newcastle in 2018.
The trial had to be delayed by three weeks at significant cost to the taxpayer and the work was re-done by another translator.
Simon Walker, from the Criminal Law Solicitors' Association, said: 'I don't think it can be overstated how significant a problem this is.
'Obviously the knock-on effect is expense, inconvenience, stress to all court users and most important of all I would argue access to justice and potential for miscarriages of justice'.
The company, run by Grace Tia Bon Bon, would often recruit foreign students at job fairs.
Eugenija Steponkutė, from Lithuania, had only been in the country for three months when she secured a job with the firm.
She had no previous qualifications or training when she began working for ITL.
Ms Steponkutė said: 'It had only been two or three months since I'd been in England in total so when I came there I didn't get everything the policeman was saying, I tried my best.'
Northumbria Police, which leads on interpreting services for the Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland forces, said the contract was given to ITL North East Ltd following a tendering process in line with national guidelines.
The force has instructed a new supplier following the latest tendering process, the BBC reported.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: 'Action was immediately taken as soon as concerns were raised about the accuracy of translations supplied by interpreters from ITL North East Ltd in relation to the modern day slavery case.
'This included interviews being independently re-examined.
'As a result of the concerns raised in the case, Northumbria Police requested a full audit of the qualifications held by all interpreters registered with ITL North East Ltd.'
In a statement ITL said: 'All interpreters supplied by ITL meet the qualifications required and are suitably registered.'