PI4J condemn Minister's response to Justice Select Committee Report
Professional Interpreters condemn Minister’s response to Justice Select Committee report
08 February 2013: Campaign group Professional Interpreters for Justice has condemned Justice Minister Helen Grant’s glib response to the scathing report published by the Justice Select Committee (JSC) this week.
The report, which described the Ministry of Justice’s outsourcing of court language services as ‘nothing short of shambolic’, concluded that performance figures for the contract are likely to represent a “significant overestimate” and “clearly do not reflect the company’s fulfilment against 100% of the requirements of HMCTS and should be altered, retrospectively and in the future, to indicate this”.
Despite this, Justice Minister Helen Grant continues to insist that while there had been "significant" issues at the start of the contract last year, "swift and robust action" has led to "dramatic improvements".
Commenting on the report she said: "The vast majority of interpreter bookings are now being completed and complaints have fallen considerably. The changes we have made have led to major savings for taxpayers, totalling £15m in the first year, and we continue to monitor the contract on a daily basis and demand continuing progress."
Professional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J) has repeatedly rejected the misleading and unverified figures published by the Ministry and assert that the Ministry of Justice has deliberately given the wrong picture about its contractor’s performance. Independent calculations estimate that the performance figure for the contract is nearer 50%* rather than the Minister’s publicly stated figure of 95% (16 January) and that fulfilment of the Framework Agreement, which has a total potential value of up to £42 million per annum, is currently at just 20%.
Keith Moffitt, Chair of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, representing PI4J says: If the Minister, as she has stated, wants to work “effectively and positively” with the interpreting community to develop a system that meets the needs of the justice sector, then she must take the report’s findings seriously. This continued repetition of misleading and inaccurate figures is not helping and there is a real risk of the legal interpreter profession collapsing altogether”.
Nick Rosenthal, Chair, Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), who gave evidence at the JSC hearing (23 Oct) added: “We have told the Minister that in order to continue the discussions with us about improving quality in court interpreting, there needs to be recognition that the quality issues are a result of the system which uses a single private contractor and that alternative models must be considered”.
PI4J is calling for the Minister to revert immediately to the previous National Agreement arrangement whereby qualified interpreters were sourced using the NRPSI. The value of the National Register was endorsed by the JSC report in its conclusions and recommendations (no.4) saying “there do not appear to have been any fundamental problems with the quality of services, where they were properly sourced i.e. through arrangements that were underpinned by the National Register of Public Service Interpreters.”
Incidences of interpreter ‘no shows’ and poor quality interpreting at courts and police stations across the UK are still being reported at an alarming rate. Just this week a trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court collapsed (7th February) due to disputed interpreting by a Sylheti (Bangladeshi) linguist, resulting in Judge Joana Korner CMG QC specifically instructing the Crown Prosecution Service not to “hire any interpreters in future who are not on the National Register”.
Geoffrey Buckingham, Chairman, Association of Police and Court Interpreters (APCI), concludes: “The Framework Agreement and the contract with Capita do not work and never will. The Ministry of Justice was determined to push this through in the face of overwhelming evidence that it would reduce the quality of language services. This failed delivery model must be abandoned and replaced by arrangements that ensure justice can be delivered consistently through the use of properly qualified professional interpreters”
Professional Interpreters for Justice is awaiting a reply from the Justice Minister to a letter they sent on 22 January setting out their dissatisfaction with her use of statistics.