PI4J response to the Home Office Consultation re PACE Codes of Practice: C and H
Professional Interpreters for Justice, c/o Involvis, The Coach House, Holbrook, IP9 2QR
25 September 2013
By email to: email@example.com
Dear Sir or Madam
Revised PACE Codes of Practice: C and H
These submissions are made on behalf of the representative organisations of Professional Interpreters for Justice in response to the Home Office consultation issued on 21 August. They concern the proposed changes to the PACE codes of practice C and H which aim to implement the EU Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings1, and specifically the ‘Notes for Guidance, 13A:
‘Notes for Guidance
13A Chief officers have discretion when determining the individuals or organisations they use to provide interpretation and translation services for their forces provided that the services which are provided satisfy the requirements of the Directive. One example would be the Ministry of Justice Framework Agreement for interpretation and translation services. Whenever possible, interpreters should be provided in accordance with national arrangements approved or prescribed by the Secretary of State.
In particular, we wish to express our concerns and objections regarding:
- the inclusion of the Ministry of Justice Framework Agreement as an example of services provided that satisfy the requirements of the Directive
- the deletion of the sentence stating that wherever possible, interpreters should be provided in accordance with national arrangements approved or prescribed by the Secretary of State.
- Interpreters are used by the police services for essential communication with the public, 95% of which is of an evidential nature for victims, witnesses and suspects and so is required to be of the highest standard to be evidentially reliable.
Failure to achieve the required standards results in increased risks of, at the very least, unacceptable delays in justice and, at worst, miscarriages of justice. Either way any failures are accompanied by increased costs (e.g. keeping people in custody) and reductions in public confidence and satisfaction.
Standards for interpreters used in the Criminal Justice System were set by the National Agreement (NA)2 in 1999 as a result of a serious miscarriage of justice caused by the use of unqualified interpreters. The NA is a safeguard to basic human rights and was put in place following the recommendations of Lord Justice Auld in order to ensure the right to a fair trial. It requires interpreters to be registered on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI)3 and the National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD)4 and to have full qualifications and experience before they can be used in the criminal justice arena.
Our considered view is that the Ministry of Justice Framework Agreement, introduced in February 2012, is far from being able to meet the needs of the police service and the communities they serve. It is not capable of providing a consistent, effective service and falls below the quality required by the EU Directive.
Evidence of the failures relating to this Framework Agreement have been widely publicised in the media and in particular we draw your attention to the parliamentary reports on this language service contract (National Audit Office, Public Accounts Committee and Justice Select Committee) and the parliamentary debate on 20 June 2013, all of which can be found on the PI4J website5.
This Framework Agreement has already caused massive problems in the UK courts and this situation must not be allowed to be extended to the police forces if similar disruption and poor quality service are to be avoided.
More adequate examples to be used would be the Metropolitan Police Service Language Programme, and the models for language provision used by Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Wales Interpreting and Translation Services. These are all delivering savings to the police forces and providing the benefits which the MoJ Framework Agreement makes claims about but clearly fails to deliver. They all maintain high standards by using qualified professional interpreters in line with the National Agreement and complying with the EU Directive.
In view of this we urge you to remove the MoJ Framework Agreement from the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, and to keep the sentence proposed for deletion in order to ensure that, wherever possible, interpreters should be provided in accordance with national arrangements approved or prescribed by the Secretary of State.
On behalf of Professional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J),
Read the full response here