Police and courts are fed up with ALS
Yesterday morning the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) called me to check if I was available for an urgent booking at one of the police stations in Birmingham. Before I asked her about ALS etc, she took the initiative to inform me that they had not signed up with any private agency or anything for the provision of interpreters and that they still used the previous arrangements. It seemed to me that she was aware of our opposition to ALS and FWA.
Anyway, I arrived at the police station within the next hour and the first person I met was the solicitor for the suspect, who on seeing me started complaining about interpreters and asked me what the problem was in the morning. I told him that I was not aware of any problem and that I had just been called less than an hour ago. He asked me if I was from ALS and I said no.
The solicitor then informed me that he had come to the police station four and a half hours before that, but there was no interpreter. The custody sergeant was on the phone with ALS for 40 minutes and the call handler had no idea about how to handle the situation and even found it hard to understand what the officer was saying and what was required. Anyway, after 40 minutes the custody sergeant gave up and the solicitor was sent home to come back when an interpreter was available.
Apparently, two SOCA officers one of whom had travelled down from London to speak to the suspect were extremely confused and had no choice, but to inform their office in Birmingham that the interview could not go ahead. SOCA then informed them that they should not have contacted the ALS in the first place, because SOCA is only using NRPSI interpreters and at that point I was called.
Whilst SOCA officers were trying to make arrangements through their own office, the custody sergeant went on the phone again after 20 minutes they had promised to send an interpreter, however they could not confirm what time the interpreter would arrive. The decision was made to wait and see.
So I arrived and the officers were relieved to know that I was not from ALS and told me "you are a proper interpreter then". Anyway, we went into the interview room and after a while we came out for a break, at which point the custody sergeant informed the officers that an ALS interpreter also arrived when we were all in the interview and she was sent back.
I then overheard one sergeant saying to the other "it's a nightmare to get an interpreter when we have a foreign suspect" and the other one said "what can I say".
Anyway, the suspect was charged and SOCA officers kindly asked me to attend XXX magistrates' court this morning. When I went to court, I was greeted by a SOCA prosecutor who started by thanking me for arriving so early (it was 09:55). I told her that I was booked for 10:00 so I was not early. She said, "well, I hardly ever see interpreters arrive before 11:30, if ever they turn up". I told her that I was not working for ALS.
Later, I saw the defence solicitor for the defendant and went to the cells with her. On our way back, she said "we have a lot of problems with your company and they have to sort it out". I told her that I did not work for ALS. Interestingly she keeping refering to ALS as ASL.
Everyone is complaining about this disaster with ALS, but I don't know whether to cry or laugh at the response or lack of it that we see from the MoJ and government in general. There is NO saving whatsoever being made as a result of this FWA. Quality has dropped drastically and interpreters hardly turn up. Why would any government sign up to such an arrangement? The failure of the MoJ to respond to this is a huge embarrassment. I don't know what else to say. From what I have been seeing and hearing since yesterday, I can't believe it anymore.