Open letter to District Judge Stobart re: concerns about poor court interpreting
District Judge Stobart
c/o Lincoln Magistrates’ Court
358 High Street
15th May 2012
Re: Open Letter re: concerns about poor court interpreting
I am writing to express my concerns about the current situation with court interpreting since the service was outsourced to Applied Language Solutions (ALS), a commercial company, on January 30th, 2012.
I am a qualified Russian interpreter myself and I have recently had a chance to observe some examples of interpreting by new linguists sent to your courts in Lincolnshire. I am appalled to say that the level of such interpreting is so low that I have serious concerns about risks of miscarriages of justice. I have witnessed bail conditions and case details distorted and I am rather disturbed at such a drastic drop in the standards now required to be a court interpreter. In fact, I believe such standards are non-existent.
Under the previous system all court interpreters had to be registered, with a recognised qualification and extensive experience confirmed. What appears to be happening now is absolutely inexperienced, un-vetted and unqualified people without any CRB clearance are sent to interpret at your courts. I am struggling to understand how this system is allowed to exist and operate.
I have spoken to various solicitors and defendants and they are all very worried about the consequences of the current interpreting arrangement. It will not take long before appeals are lodged due to poor interpreting and trials are re-run. Surely, this is not what the HMCTS is trying to achieve in an attempt to cut costs?
On the issue of savings, I am not sure how these are met, considering that ALS workers are sent by the agency to attend hearings hundreds of miles away and when no interpreter is provided, which is often the case, the cost of numerous adjournments and unnecessary custody is astronomical.
The issue is so serious that it has been reported by the local and national media for the last three months. A collection of these news articles is published on www.linguistlounge.org/index.php/news
I am sure you appreciate that urgent steps need to be taken to stop this disaster from turning into a catastrophe and I urge you to raise this question with the judiciary before innocent people are convicted or serious criminals are allowed to walk out free.
Should you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.
I look forward to hearing from you.
CC:Mr Peter Handcock, Chief Executive, HMCTS
Mr Mark Simmonds, MP