Letter to Dorset Police
Chief Superintendent Gary Smith
Director of Criminal Justice
Crime & Justice
Bournemouth Divisional Headquarters
Dorset BH1 1QQ 20th July 2012
Dear Chief Superintendent
OUTSOURCING OF INTERPRETERS
I work as a self-employed interpreter and translator primarily using my native language, alongside other European languages, and for many years now I have worked as a Police and Court interpreter in the SW of England and in Wales.
I am shocked to learn that your police force is considering entering a framework agreement with Applied Language Services (ALS) to provide interpreting services. This company has singularly failed to provide an efficient and effective service to HMCTS.
Such is the level of concern that the House of Commons Justice Select Committee, under the chair of Sir Alan Beith, is holding an inquiry into the matter and has called for evidence to be submitted by 3rd September 2012. In addition, the National Audit Office is investigating the contract and, finally, in the House of Lords last week, the Justice Minister (finally) admitted that the planned savings for this contract would not be met.
Led by the Association of Police and Court Interpreters (APCI) and the Society of Public Service Interpreters (SPSI) the conduct of the ALS contract with HMCTS has been extensively monitored by the interpreter community. Since 30th January 2012 courts throughout England and Wales have seen an unprecedented number of trials adjourned, and a number of high profile trials have collapsed due to the incompetence of the ALS interpreters involved. The contractors failings can broadly be grouped as follows: failing to supply an interpreter; supplying non-qualified interpreters; providing interpreters with no CJS experience; providing interpreters without assessments and providing interpreters without CRB checks.
To view a snapshot of the problems encountered by the courts and the police I strongly urge you to visit: www.linguistlounge.org
When the MoJ announced that they would outsource interpreting the vast majority of NRPSI interpreters in the UK refused to register with for ALS due primarily to their total disregard to maintaining quality and standards and their appallingly low rates of remuneration – a reduction of circa 60% is well beyond acceptable austerity measures.
I believe that:
- Should you also go ahead with an agreement with ALS you will also have great difficulty in meeting the needs for interpreting services – ALS are unable to meet the needs of HMCTS let alone additional contracts.
- Outsourcing to ALS will not save you money; it will increase your costs.
- Outsourcing to ALS will lead to a substantial drop in the availability of interpreters – most who work for you now will not register with ALS. This, coupled with a marked reduction in the quality of interpreting available to your police force, could place you in breach of your obligations under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984; the Human Rights Act 1998 / ECHR Articles 5 and 6; and the 2010 EU Directive.
You may want to also consider the following:
- Greater Manchester Police were forced to abandon a contract with ALS because it was found to be ‘hampering their investigations’ (Manchester Evening News, 7 March 2011).
- Police forces which outsourced their interpreting lost control of costs - Bedfordshire found that its interpreting costs exceeded the budget by 100% in the first year.
- Police forces which control interpreter resources retained control of costs and can make savings and efficiency gains. One force which chose not to outsource (Cambridgeshire) was able to make a 42% saving on interpreter costs within 12 months and reduce the average interpreter claim from £250 to £120.50p)
- In May 2012, the Ministry of Justice released figures showing there had been 2,232 complaints about language services provided by ALS since the beginning of the contract in early February 2012.
ALS has been proved to be incapable of providing interpreters in accordance with the contract; they were forced to recruit any Tom, Dick and Harry as interpreters – often employing some quite underhand methods - and the quality of those engaged by the company falls well short of acceptable standards that is expected in our much admired judicial system. This will also be the case if you proceed with outsourcing.
With kind regards