Letter from Professional Interpreters for Justice to Helen Grant
Helen Grant MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
22 January 2013
Interpreting services across the Justice sector
On behalf of the member organisations of Professional Interpreters for Justice I am writing further to the meetings held on 4 and 19 December; your letter to Keith Moffitt (11 December) asking for suggestions re an independent consultant; our letter to you (17 December) and Sean Palmer’s proposals (18 January) re working groups.
Material breaches in the Framework Agreement and use of contract break clause
We would like to respectfully bring to your attention the material breaches in the Framework Agreement by your contractor Capita TI.
Professional Interpreters for Justice calls on you to exercise the break clause option in the contract.
The National Audit Office recommended that the Ministry of Justice fully implement the contract, but the investigation which was undertaken subsequent to this by the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts did not make this recommendation.
The Public Accounts Committee report (published 14 December) has given substantial evidence of the material breaches in the Framework Agreement and stated (paragraph 17), ‘the model set out in the Framework Agreement is unworkable’.
One of the clear breaches is stated in paragraph 18:
‘Capita-ALS had obtained evidence for the experience of just 40% of interpreters. It is now relying on the experience that interpreters are gaining through working for Capita-ALS, which is not in line with the Framework Agreement.’
Professional Interpreters for Justice has previously stated that the Framework Agreement model is not fit for purpose; that the contract with Capita TI should be terminated because of the breaches and that alternative models should now be investigated.
Ministry of Justice statements re Framework Agreement and Capita TI performance
It is now almost 12 months since the Framework Agreement implementation and by our own deduction (see the attached ‘Ministry of Justice statistics – a different interpretation’) around 50% of interpreting services for HMCTS are being delivered outside of the Capita TI contract. In many cases courts are resorting to booking interpreters directly. Other private agencies are also used. We continue to receive information daily about Capita TI interpreters arriving late or not at all, or in the wrong language, resulting in delayed trials, unnecessary remands in cells and breaches of human rights under UK and European law.
In your written answers to Sadiq Khan, Shadow Justice Minister (Hansard, 16 January), you said the spending on Capita for the language services contract over 11 months has been £8.5 million, which is 62% of the annual contract value of £15 million. The Framework Agreement is valued at up to £42 million per annum so over the course of 11 months the language services provided by ALS-Capita therefore represent 20% of the Framework Agreement.
Meanwhile Capita TI on 8 January reduced its travel payments and incentives and we hear of many interpreters who have since stopped working.
Nevertheless the Ministry of Justice continues to quote “95% performance”.
Professional Interpreters for Justice is concerned that the 95% success figure continues to be repeated. The implication is that your figures are accepted by us. For clarity Professional Interpreters for Justice would like to state that they are not. We will be preparing a press release to state our position on this.
Working group on Incentives
Sean Palmer has written separately (18 January) to Keith Moffitt about the Working Groups, to which we reply here.
Incentives for professional interpreters consist of more than hourly rates or travel expense payments.
Professional interpreters are principled individuals who value their profession and their role in the criminal justice system. What they deplore is the lowering of standards in the Framework Agreement which means unqualified and inexperienced linguists (‘Tier 2’ and ‘Tier 3’) are undermining British justice and the right to a fair trial.
The payment rates under the National Agreement were appropriate and had not risen (not even in line with inflation) for a decade.
We should also point out Margaret Haig’s letter to the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (31 December) which recognises that the salary figures quoted by the then Justice Minister Crispin Blunt during House of Commons debate and on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme had not been verified by the Ministry of Justice.
The reluctance of professional interpreters to work for Capita TI is a result of the system as it stands and the involvement of Professional Interpreters for Justice in any Working Group on Incentives must be on the basis that the Framework Agreement structure and alternative models are discussed as part of the Terms of Reference.
Working Group on Quality
We propose that the involvement of Professional Interpreters for Justice in the Working Group on Quality is on the basis that (similar to our position re Incentives) this includes a discussion about the delivery structure, recognising that the quality issues (and the mixed economy) result from the system as it stands. The Public Accounts Committee report (which supersedes the NAO report) makes clear that the current system needs to change.
Professional Interpreters for Justice suggests that at the next meeting(s) we:
Begin work to agree the scope and terms of reference for the Quality Working Group
Define the aspects of ‘quality’ which are to be reviewed; this could include the definition for the ‘independent evaluation of whether the new contract’s quality standards are adequate’. See below.
Decide the tasks to be undertaken and the relevant experts to lead these
Set the timeframe for delivering the various tasks and for drawing up conclusions and recommendations
Independent evaluation on quality standards
You had asked us to consider ideas for who (or which organisation) might carry out the ‘independent evaluation of whether the new contract’s quality standards are adequate’ which was one of the recommendations of the NAO report.
There are several individuals we can recommend to carry this out and we attach a list. However before any ‘independent evaluation’ is commissioned an agreement on the remit and definition of terms is needed to begin the task.
It could involve evaluating the standards of interpreting skills currently being used and whether these are serving the interests of justice and lead to fair trials. It should in addition focus on evaluating the contract’s standards and the quality of service delivery from Capita TI, for which there is no independent auditing.
Conference on 23 February
Finally, Professional Interpreters for Justice is hosting a conference for interpreters at Unite House in London on 23rd February, to mark the first anniversary of the implementation of the Framework Agreement. In the lead up to this we are commissioning an independent online survey of interpreters, the findings of which will be announced at the event and will no doubt help inform our discussions with you. The Ministry of Justice may want to attend as observers or send a speaker.
We will provide further details of the event in due course and look forward to hearing from you with regards our proposals.
On behalf of the Steering Committee of Professional Interpreters for Justice
Association of Police and Court Interpreters (APCI) – email@example.com
Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) – firstname.lastname@example.org
National Register of Public Service Interpreters Ltd (NRPSI) - email@example.com
National Union of Professional Interpreters and Translators, part of Unite the Union (NUPIT) - firstname.lastname@example.org
Professional Interpreters Alliance (PIA) – email@example.com
Scottish Interpreters and Translation Association (SITA) - messageSITA@gmail.com
Society of Official Metropolitan Interpreters UK Ltd (SOMI) – firstname.lastname@example.org
Society for Public Service Interpreting (SPSI) – email@example.com
Wales Interpreter and Translation Service (WITS) - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) email@example.com
Cc Sean Palmer, Senior Responsible Owner, HMCTS Interpretation Project
Ministry of Justice statistics – a different interpretation
Ministry of Justice figures for February 2012 to August 2012*:
In the first 7 months of the contract CapitaTI / ALS reported that there were 72,043 requests for interpreters from HMCTS and that 56,818 were fulfilled.
However, Lord McNally in the House of Lords (9 July) speaking about interpreting services, stated that: “We are talking about a system with some 800 requests a day for such interpretation.”
Applying Lord McNally’s figures to the likely number of requests for interpreters would mean in reality there would have been approximately 4,000 requests per week, or 112,000 over the first 7 months of the contract (February – August).
112,000 requests for interpreters, 56,818 of which were fulfilled by CapitaTI / ALS, is equivalent to 50% fulfillment, rather than the 89% stated by Ministry of Justice in its report for February – August 2012.
In conclusion around 50% of interpreting work for HMCTS is currently being fulfilled outside of the CapitaTI contract by courts booking interpreters directly, other agencies being used, or interpreters not booked at all.
Monetary value of CapitaTI ‘s fulfillment of the Framework Agreement
The Framework Agreement has an estimated value of up to £42 million per year and the Ministry of Justice originally expected its own contract with CapitaTI/ALS to cost £18 million per annum – since revised to £15 million per annum.
Justice Minister Helen Grant in her written answers to Sadiq Khan (‘To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how much ALS/Capita has been paid’) stated a total of £8.5 million was paid during the 11 months February to December 2012.
If the annual contract value is £15 million then the contract is worth £1.25 million per month or £13.75 million over 11 months.
£8.5 million payment over 11 months means Capita TI earned 62% of the potential of its contract with the Ministry of Justice over this period (February – December 2012).
Around £5.25 million (38% of the contract value over this period of 11 months) was therefore probably spent outside of the contract on fulfilling interpreter requirements.
The Framework Agreement has an overall contract value of £42 million per annum (£3.5 million per month or £38.5 million over 11 months) – which means that Capita TI’s percentage of the overall Framework Agreement (£8.5 million over 11 months) is just 20%.
Recommended independent consultants for the Ministry of Justice
Hilary Maxwell-Hyslop, Director of Examinations, IoL Educational Trust
Hilary Maxwell-Hyslop is Director of Examinations for the IoL Educational Trust, which runs the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI), and Joint Acting CEO of the Chartered Institute of Linguists. She is in post until February 8 2013.
Her previous experience includes UK language school principal and language school inspector in the UK and overseas with assessment work for the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (Chair of the CPE Reading Paper, she is currently an Independent External Scrutineer for complaints and appeals).
Her publications include articles and a book of tests (OUP) and her interests include the management and assessment of translating and interpreting skills in the public sector.
She is participating in two EU projects, Building Mutual Trust 2 which is concerned with briefing legal and court personnel about the role of the legal interpreter in the EU and Qualitas: Ensuring Quality through Testing and Certification which complements and furthers the work done in previous EU projects for the provision of reliable interpreting services to the judicial systems of the EU, addressing issues of quality contained in the European Directive 16 June 2010 (Rights to Interpretation and Translation in Criminal Proceedings). Until 2012 she was the Signature Board representative on the Board of NRCPD (National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and DeafBlind People.)
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 020 8693 7142
Ms Amanda Clement
Amanda Clement is a freelance translator & language consultant at Accent Language Consultants. She worked for many years at the Metropolitan Police Service acting as Head of Language Policy & Coordination and Deputy Head, Linguistic & Forensic Medical Services. She therefore has expertise in all aspects of public-sector interpreting, including the Metropolitan Police Test.
Dr. Sabina Braun of Surrey University
Sabine Braun is Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies at the University of Surrey. She holds an MA in Translation Studies (Heidelberg) and a Dr Phil in Applied English Linguistics (Tübingen). Her research focuses on new forms of translation and interpreting, especially remote and videoconference interpreting. Over the past few years, she has worked on assessing the use of videoconference-based interpreting in the criminal justice system. She has led several European projects relating to legal interpreting as well as interpreting and new technologies, including AVIDICUS I and II (Assessment of Videoconference Interpreting in the Criminal Justice System, 2008-11 and 2011-13), IVY (Interpreting in Virtual Reality, 2011-12) and eVIVA (Evaluating the education of interpreters and their clients through virtual learning activities, 2013-14) and contributes to other projects, e.g. QUALITAS (Ensuring Legal Interpreter Quality through Testing and Certification, 2012-14) and BMT2 (Building Mutual Trust 2 – Training of legal professionals in how to work with an interpreter, 2011-13).
As part of the AVIDICUS work, Sabine has worked closely with the JHA Council Working Party on e-Law (e-Justice) to develop guidelines for videoconference-based interpreting in legal proceedings. She has furthermore advised the Metropolitan Police Services in London and the London Probation Trust on the introduction of videoconferencing and interpreting. She teaches interpreting theory and practice, and applied linguistics, and has developed several MA programmes in Business and Public Service Interpreting
 SOURCE: “Statistics on the use of language services in courts and tribunals” Statistical Bulletin, 30 January 2012 to August 2012.
 Answer by Lord McNally in response to ‘Interpretation and Translation in Criminal Proceedings’ question by Baroness Coussins, 9 July 2012 : Column 908 “We are talking about a system with some 800 requests a day for such interpretation” http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201213/ldhansrd/text/120709-0001.htm
 House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts, The Ministry of Justice language services contract. Published 14 December 2012, page 8 (Procurement, paragraph 4).