National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) Letter to Crispin Blunt
July 5, 2012
Crispin Blunt MP
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
London SW1H 9AJ
Re: Ministry of Justice Framework Agreement with Applied Language Solutions
Dear Mr. Blunt:
The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) is the largest professional organization of its kind in the United States. NAJIT’S mission is to promote quality services in the field of legal interpreting and translating, in support of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Our members play a critical role in ensuring due process, equal protection and equal access for non-English or limited English proficient (LEP) individuals who interact with the judicial system and the community.
The international interpreting community has been closely following the results of the implementation of the Ministry of Justice Framework Agreement for interpretation and translation services entered into with Applied Language Solutions (ALS) on August 24, 2011. We are in agreement with both the various interpreter organizations located in Great Britain and abroad, in seeing this agreement as a misguided effort to save money at the cost of justice and fairness in Great Britain’s courts. Apparently, the moral, legal and financial results of adopting the Framework Agreement with ASL were not addressed when this decision was made. The consequences of relying exclusively on an agency that has clearly demonstrated chronic difficulties in providing qualified interpreters have been observed at all levels of the British legal system. We believe that it is inevitable that the repercussions of this measure in the form of costs to the courts and lawsuits arising from miscarriages of justice, can and will outweigh any presumed benefits. In addition, we cannot help but feel that Applied Language Services has in essence defrauded the Ministry of Justice, and by extension the British public, by neglecting the provisions of its contract, forcing the courts to accept the services of unqualified, unprepared and unvetted interpreters to whom it pays substandard wages.
It has been suggested that the current problems with the services provided to the courts by Applied Language Services are sure to be resolved as time goes on. This is highly unlikely. ALS cannot afford to pay qualified interpreters what they are worth given the fact that the amount of money they bid for the contract does not allow them to do so and still make a profit. Professional interpreters deserve remuneration commensurate with their training and skills; they will assuredly seek other fields of endeavor rather than work for this agency. Many have already done so, in fact, and it is doubtful that they can be convinced to work for the pittance offered to them by ALS.
It is also imperative that the Ministry of Justice consider the effects of its actions within a global scope. When a respected nation like Great Britain gives little importance to the assurance of justice in its courts for those whose English language skills are not sufficient to ensure due process, it is negatively affecting the established standards of the international community. To quote your own native son, John Donne, “No man is an island, entire of itself; each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”
We urge the Ministry of Justice to rescind the present agreement and dialogue with industry stakeholders to enact a reasonable contract that will include mandatory certification standards as offered by the National Registry of Public Service Interpreters. We believe that it is in the best interests of the British legal system to provide adequate language services to those who rely upon its courts for justice and that Great Britain serve as a beacon to other nations as a place where equal access to justice is the norm.
Rob Cruz, Chair
National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators