“Justice Interpreting: the Need for Quality Standards”
For the Twitter feed from the event: http://chirpstory.com/li/56335
(If anything in these notes is not accurate, I’d appreciate it if you could comment below)
11.00- 11.20 Introduction – Opening remarks by Andrew Murray, Regional Office, Unite the Union
Andrew outlined the course of the seminar introducing the representatives of all organisations involved in the PIJ campaign: APCI (Geoffrey Buckingham), CIOL (Keith Moffitt), ITI (Paul Wilson), NRPSI (Lalia White), NUPIT (Amelia Naranjo), PIA (Madeleine Lee), SOMI (Klasiena Slaney), SPSI (Guillermo Makin), WITS (Tony Wilcox). Andrew underlined the role of this campaign in bringing the profession together and maintaining the solidarity.
Madeleine Lee & Keith Moffitt
Professional Interpreters for Justice Report on campaign. Discussion with Ministry of Justice
Madeleine started by saying it was great to see so many interpreters at the seminar. She mentioned that when the FWA rolled out on 30 January 2012, it wasn’t clear what interpreters were going to do, some of them still wanted to work for the courts directly under NA, but not for ALS. What happened then wasn’t a strike because all interpreters are freelancers and make their own choices, but it was a boycott: a group of individuals making up their minds about where they stand. The majority of RPSIs didn’t want to work for ALS not only because of the rates of pay, but because of principles, standards, and quality.
The MOJ issued a memo to the courts saying that if ALS was failing to provide, the staff should go with NRPSI, as before. And in fact, these contingency arrangements have been in place ever since. In February 2012 ALS raised their rates of pay and mileage to encourage interpreters to sign up. As we all know, Capita reverted to the old rates in January 2013. In March 2012 there was a demo in Birmingham, where we made a lot of noise, and again in April outside of the Houses of Parliament. And this was what set the ball rolling, after a meeting with an MP who was on the Justice Select Committee (JSC).
We knew in April that there were going to be enquiries, but we were surprised that we got as many as three of them. The National Audit Office (NAO) announced an investigation because we alerted everyone; we were the whistle-blowers. Then we learned that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and JSC also started enquiries. The NAO concluded that there were unqualified people used, 301 RPSIs signed up with ALS. These figures actually mirrored the survey we conducted, so we can have faith in our survey results, since official sources confirm the results. We’re challenging the figures given by the MOJ.
Last September and October were very exciting. We had the PAC and JSC hearings and it turned out that what we were saying was true. The PAC report was published in November, but it hasn’t received enough press attention. In January this year, the JSC report was published. We’re in a strong position now.
Keith summarised the talks with the MOJ and the minister. Various attempts to talk were ignored before, but new minister wanted to talk. The first meeting was held on the 4th of December 2012. 10 representatives of professional organisations were there, there was a joint press release published. The Ministry wanted to set up a regular dialogue, a working group, there were some proposals how to set it up. In the second meeting not much happened, but our position was made clear: the FWA is not fit for purpose. We wanted two working groups: one concentrating on quality, and the other one on delivery structure. The Ministry didn’t want to talk about the structure, but rather about incentives to bring interpreters back to courts. We sent a letter to the Minister reiterating that we still think the FWA is flawed and we haven’t changed our position. There has been no answer so far.
Penny Arbuthnot – Involvis
Penny was honoured and excited to be a part of this campaign. Involvis has been working on it for the past 18 months, covering the production of the survey, PR and media, helping to achieve coverage. Involvis became a central point of communication. The reports helped to achieve milestones, they became useful evidence used by NAO, PAC and JSC.
In September 2011, there was the first survey – “A fair deal for interpreters”, but it was ignored at the time. One of the recommendations there was that savings could be achieved by overhauling the admin systems, and JSC actually acknowledged that.
859 respondents took part in the recent survey, conducted in February 2013. The main reasons the respondents gave for not signing up with ALS/Capita were: the interest of justice, principles, "no" to outsourcing, lack of ethics of the company, interpreters felt devalued and disrespected. A staggering number of 87% interpreters who responded were contacted directly in the last 3 months. Why would they receive calls if the system was working? 51% of respondents were accepting direct calls because they were satisfied with pay rates, they were undergoing financial difficulties, or when they were approached directly they felt valued as professionals. Some of them said they wanted to avoid miscarriages of justice. It’s fair to say that the increase of acceptance could be due to the feeling of mission. Interpreters who work for ALS/Capita said they felt mistreated, they didn’t want to work but had to for financial reasons. Some said they couldn’t get onto the NRPSI.
Alex Tinsley – Fair Trials International
Importance of Effective Interpretation from a fair trials perspective: casework examples
Alex said that Fair Trials International is a charity and its role is to be an independent third party taking part in disputes. He called to consider what is at stake in the dispute between interpreters and the MOJ.
A fair trial is more than just having an independent judge. It is a series of points that ensure that a miscarriage of justice is avoided, from the moment of cautioning, through understanding the charges, to giving evidence without being disadvantaged. Without the right interpreting, defence rights are not implemented. It is a key area, as 1 in 30 of 600 reports has issues with interpretation. Alex gave three examples.
Theresa Daniels, who was on holidays in Spain, suspected of taking part in drug dealing. She wasn’t aware of what was going on in the investigation, during her trial the questions were put to her in broken English, and the rest of the trial went on in the local language. Eventually she obtained a pardon for unfair conviction, but she still has problems with finding jobs due to her criminal record. She suffered a permanent damage.
Da An Chen: A Chinese national was extradited to Romania where he was tried in absence. The interpreter provided in Romania had no qualifications, just some knowledge of Chinese, no code of ethics. The interpreter was hostile towards the client, so the client rejected her services in order to avoid being prejudiced. But the trial went ahead with this interpreter anyway, leaving the defendant with no opportunity to defend himself. Lawyers in the UK are helping him to be able to have a fair trial, but he remains in detention. Without interpreters, individuals can suffer injustice.
Garry Mann: A UK national who was on holiday in Portugal in 2004. He was arrested after a riot, taken to a police station, tried in 24 hours, didn’t have a chance to talk to a lawyer. There were 2 interpreters provided for 14 defendants. One defendant was relaying what was being said to the rest of the group. Garry was convicted and extradited, and he had to serve a sentence based on an unfair trial.
Since February 2012, there have been some severe concerns about availability, adjournments in the UK. Adjournments led to prolongation or detention, or even cases going ahead without interpreters. Fair Trials International wants to see the standards upheld and enhanced, not regressing.
Hilary Maxwell-Hyslop – formerly of the Institute of Linguists Educational Trust.
Importance of the Quality of Qualifications.
Hilary started by asking what we mean by quality. She then moved on to explain that IoL Educational Trust (IOLET) is a non-profit awarding body recognised by Ofqual. Hilary reminded of the structure of DPSI. She compared the examination to a certification for pilots, saying that one simply can’t say he/she is good at getting off and landing, but it’s the ‘in air’ part that they’re struggling – a pilot has to be proficient at all stages, the same goes for interpreters. The testing principles for DPSI are: valid, reliable, transparent, practical, manageable, complementary, fair. DPSI stakeholders include the public, Ofqual, users, candidates: they all should have an opportunity to have their voice heard. In each DPSI paper, there are 10 people involved.
Ofqual monitors IOLET in terms of the standards, value for money, and protection of candidates. IOLET has to provide evidence for expenses, and all profits are fed back to improve the exam.
Liese Katschinka – EULITA’S President
EU Directive and the Right to Interpretation and the Principle of Non-Regression
Liese thanked for this united front we represent. Eulita has 4 members in the UK: APCI and ITI are full members, CIOL and University of Salford are associate members. APCI invited Eulita to hold a general assembly in April, jointly with APCI conference. The issue at stake attracts a lot of attention in Brussels, from DG Justice and EU Parliament. We should maintain our optimism and dynamism. We’re not in this alone.
The Directive was adopted on 26 October 2010. It applies to the full investigative process, not only the trial. In order to cut costs, police and courts should cooperate more, and similarly, video conference interpreting should be used.
Article 2 of the Directive deals with interpreting.
Article 3 of the Directive provides for the right to translation of essential documents. It also mentions that a waiver of translation should be accepted only following a legal advice.
Article 4 states that all costs must be met by the states, and it raised a big uproar among all MOJs, as they say that the implementation of the directive will cost so much money. Liese says MOJs should involve professional organisations in it, as they have ideas how to save money on interpreting.
Article 5 deals with the quality of interpretation and translation. It advises to establish independent national registers. The legal systems are different, so there can’t be just one solution. However, some guidelines can set the standards.
Article 6 maintains there should be training provided to officers, judges, and lawyers in effective communication with interpreters.
Article 8 (non-regression clause) says that the standards already existing can’t be lowered.
After the lunch, we started debating.