PI4J Letter to Kent Police
4 April 2016
Head of Criminal Justice
By e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
CC: Ms Ann Barnes, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, email@example.com
CC: Ms C. Bloomfield-Howe, Head of Procurement Kent & Essex, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Detective Superintendent Lisseman,
Professional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J) is an umbrella group representing over 2,240 interpreters from both the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) and the National Union of British Sign Language Interpreters (NUBSLI). Our aim is to work with government to ensure the quality of interpreting available to the Justice System and in the Public Sector.
Reliable communication provided by qualified professional interpreters and translators is an essential resource which ensures that justice and human rights are upheld for non-English speakers and deaf people. This is put at risk if standards are dropped and quality is sacrificed.
PI4J has been at the forefront of the professional interpreters’ campaign against the unacceptable lowering of standards and quality in public service.
Interpreting Services Provided to Kent Police to be outsourced to thebigword
Interpreters providing services for Kent Police have recently received a letter dated 10th March 2016 informing them of the decision to outsource interpreting services to thebigword.
PI4J understands this decision was made without any consultation with or input from interpreters and their representative bodies and will most certainly have serious implications for the supply of competent, qualified professional interpreters to Kent Police.
Thebigword has already been removed from a Home Office contract in 2014 due to supply difficulties and has previously been guilty of supplying unqualified interpreters. It also uses subcontractors for BSL interpreters as it does not have sufficient interpreters on its books.
We submit that outsourcing to thebigword will lead to an immediate drop in the availability of interpreters and in the quality of interpreting available to you, which may place you in breach of your obligations under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984; the Human Rights Act 1998 / Articles 5 and 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights; and Directive 2010/64/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings.
Our considered view is that thebigword will not adequately meet the needs of the police service because (i) it is not capable of providing a consistent, effective service; (ii) it will not deliver the promised savings and interpreter services and; (iii) it will not provide the quality of service required for the police services.
An appropriate and professional interpreting service upholds both the suspect and the victim’s ECHR rights.
The National Agreement (NA) on the arrangements for the use of interpreters reflected the introduction of the Human Rights Act 1998 following a miscarriage of justice, and emphasised the requirement to check the competency of an interpreter and the quality of interpreting services in order to ensure the right to a fair trial. In all cases, Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires that an interpreter in criminal proceedings be fully competent for the task assigned. Subsequent amendments were made to strengthen the NA, ensuring only registered and qualified interpreters could practise in the Criminal Justice System.
The standard of interpretation is fundamental to allow access to a fair hearing and justice for victims, witnesses and detainees, many of whom are from vulnerable minorities. They must be afforded equal access to the highest levels of linguistic support.
Standards must include minimum professional qualifications for Public Service Interpreters (PSI) and BSL/English Interpreters, Deaf interpreters and Sign Language translators, to include mandatory NRPSI/NRCPD/SASLI registration and independent regulation.
Without these safeguards, access to justice will be denied and human rights and race relations will be jeopardised.
Interpreters have demonstrated in the last four years that they can and will refuse to work for low rates set by so-called 'market forces', thereby significantly reducing the pool of qualified interpreters and translators available to work in the public services.
This is evidenced by the detrimental decline within the Ministry of Justice’s Court Interpreting Service since they outsourced to a private agency in 2012. We assume that you are aware of the extensive coverage in the media regarding the subsequent disruption and chaos visited upon the courts and the delays and collapse of court cases, resulting in an enormous waste of time and money and two Parliamentary hearings (see below links).
The MoJ Framework Agreement has already caused massive problems in the UK courts since it was rolled out in February 2012. This situation must not be extended to the police forces.
More recently, at the end of 2015, the Home Office (HO) decided to reduce their interpreters’ rates. Following a Fair Payment Campaign by the HO interpreters and their representative bodies, including the PI4J, the HO delayed and then reversed their decision. Interpreters made it very clear they would boycott HO assignments and not work for the proposed new rates. This debacle appeared on the front page of The Guardian newspaper.