Public Confessions of an Unqualified Capita Court Interpreter
Nadia’s blog reveals how she isn’t qualified, failed exams, uses the wrong language, “lies” about her travel expenses and describes court staff as “vigilant judicial rats”. She’s still working as a Capita court interpreter!
One story has come to light which shows the full horror of the Ministry of Justice Framework Agreement with Capita Translation and Interpreting: Nadia Tabler’s blog. This one story shows how Capita continues to use unqualified interpreters in courts, an interpreter who openly states she “struggles with legal terminology”, and was thrown out of a court for being “unprofessional”.
Nadia, we understand, lives in the Colchester area. According to her blog on ‘Live Journal’ she was working in a nursing home. She described how she signed up with a new agency (Applied Language Solutions, now Capita Translation and Interpreting).
One entry in her blog said “They (ALS/Capita) have been offering me loads of bookings - each day I receive tens of assignments; to be honest, they need a Lithuanian interpreter and all the bookings are for courts, and my Lithuanian has somewhat rusted without practice.”
She then describes how she started accepting the bookings. So, here we have someone taking jobs in courts in a language she admits she is “rusty” in. She also said that she has problems with written Lithuanian as she did not study the language at school, she was self-taught. She demonstrates her command of interpreting into Lithuanian and the court system in an entry on July 7th, when working in a crown court: “Everybody wears a wig there and they speak the highest level of English. The average Englishman would not understand, and neither would I.”
In other entries she further describes how she gets by. Instead of using Lithuanian, she starts to throw in some Russian. Again, you have to stop here. Lithuanian and Russian are completely different languages and although Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union, it is now the case that many people from there do not understand or speak Russian at all. The risks to justice here are plain to see.
According her Live Journal, Nadia enjoys travelling around England in her new found profession. She even describes how she fiddles her travel expenses. This is from July 20th: “Each such trip (I try to use a train, but I lie that I drive, then they pay more) takes 3 to 13 hours, sometimes I drive for 8 hours. I visited plenty of towns I had never seen before, we went with the whole family to some places, visited the sights before or after my work.”
So, our ‘linguist’ may have been enjoying days out with the family, but sadly some of the defendants she was working with did not enjoy her interpreting in as much that they couldn’t understand it. She confesses in the blog: “A couple of times clients (Lithuanians) were unhappy with my interpreting, one even made a statement to the court demanding that they find another interpreter for the next hearing. One court banished me forever, they said my English wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t interpret one word with four attempts.”
Nadia’s native language is Russian. So why doesn’t she use that instead of stumbling in Lithuanian? The answer, in her words, is fascinating: “because there are hundreds of Russian interpreters, and all highly qualified, experienced, with a linguistic or foreign language background, so I, a jumped-up impostor, do not stand a chance. There is no shortage of work with Lithuanian though, every day dozens of bookings, so one can pick and choose.”
We have tried to find exactly what Nadia is qualified in. She certainly is not and never has been on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters, or taken the Law Component of the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) in either Russian or Lithuanian. Even now, the interpreters working in the courts are supposed to have DPSI qualifications (or part of them) to work under the Framework Agreement, so here we have another ‘Capita’ fail to send qualified people out to work.
Court interpreters are supposed to follow a code of conduct, and that naturally prevents making public comments about ‘work’. Doesn’t bother our Nadia though. For example, in this post, she uses the name of a defendant: “I was all humming and hawing and the situation was only slightly rescued after the defendant - a serial thief called Donatas - encouraged me by saying that he spoke perfect Russian and that I could smuggle in one or two Russian words when I couldn't think of the Lithuanian ones and no one would notice. I was forced to translate this by vigilant judicial rats of the court but they didn't object to it - it was probably too obvious how much I was struggling.”
In other comments, she also discusses sentencing policy and her views on some of her ‘customers’: “there are plenty of those Lithuanian dregs of society here - the stinking heavy drinkers who've let themselves go and who God knows why decided to drag themselves to a foreign country.”
Most of the controversial postings on Nadia’s blog (notabler.livejournal.com) mysteriously disappeared only a few days ago. However, we did save some screen shots (in Russian) taken weeks ago so they can be read in full.
Nadia’s candid confessions give us an insight into working as a Capita court interpreter. Unqualified, questionable competence and sometimes using the wrong language to get by. Also enjoying days out around England to boot. How many more Nadias are out there? How many court cases could now be re-opened because the interpreters supplied by Capita simply are not up to the job? If Nadia’s blog is anything to go by, the answer is quite a few.
Nadia kindly responded to requests for comment prior to publication of this article. In an email, she said “I felt rusty in my national language which I had not used for a few years but do you realise that before I came to the UK my employment required me to be a multilingual translator/interpreter at the Ignalina Nuclear Plant where a single error could cost many lives. Also I am not unqualified in UK, I received my DPSI in 2007 with distinctions.” She was, however, unspecific in which language and subject.
Nadia acknowledged that the blog posts are genuine and she had deleted them, she added “ I am entirely behind you in your efforts to improve/restore working conditions for us interpreters but unfortunately my imaginative blog is not gospel and should not be used for this.”
As for Capita’s claims that it is thoroughly checking the qualifications of the people it sends to interpret in court, we know that they recently booked Nadia to work for them. Nadia has no recognised qualifications to work as a Lithuanian interpreter.
(The English text in quotes taken from the blog was translated from Russian by a group of professional Russian translators. The full articles were translated but were too long to include here; they may be made available to interested parties on request.)