Judge Michael Carroll slams court translation service Applied Language Solutions
A judge sitting in Maidstone has slammed a private firm's failure to supply a court interpreter just days after official figures revealed the number of criminal cases that have collapsed since their appointment.
Judge Michael Carroll said the behaviour of Applied Language Solutions, appointed by former Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke in January to provide translators to courts across England, was "so close to contempt of court".
A Slovak interpreter had been booked as far back as August to help defendant Lubomir Chorvat during his trial on a charge of wounding with intent.
However, the case failed to start when it was discovered a Slovak interpreter was not available for the defence team.
Arrangements were hastily made for a Czech translator to assist after the lunch adjournment.
But when the court reassembled, Judge Carroll (pictured above) was told their services had also been cancelled.
Addressing the court, the judge did little to hide his anger.
"We now have a nightmare situation where someone awaiting trial on an extremely serious matter is not able to be told what is happening in his case.
"He has not seen his barrister this morning because of no interpreter and he is being kept in the dark by the inability or unwillingness of a company which is contracted to supply an interpreter and their failure to do so without any kind of explanation to the court.
"This is so close to contempt of court that I feel I should take the matter further."
Before January, courts in England used to rely on local interpreters.
However, ALS was handed the monopoly on translating in the hope it would save the government £18million a year.
Figures from the National Audit Office revealed at the weekend that in the first three months of its contract, 182 magistrate court trials, and an unknown number in crown courts, have collapsed.
A trial is declared "ineffective" if, like Chorvat's, it has to be abandoned on day one. The cost of yesterday's delay was estimated to have cost the taxpayer £8,000.
When the possibility of calling upon the services of an independent interpreter was broached, Judge Carroll remarked: "I am not sure the court has the power to appoint an outside interpreter when a huge amount has already been paid to an agency who refuses to honour their contract."
Despite being assured that a Slovak translator would be available, the judge added he was prepared to report the matter to the Lord Chief Justice.
"Something has to be done," continued Judge Carroll. "Not just something has to be seen to be done, but something has to be done."
Chorvat, 55, of Richmond Road, Gillingham, denies wounding Milan Jankech with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm between June 17 and 18.