The ALS system: the way it fails to work
At a crown court in London two Romanian defendants appeared in custody today. It was a joint case listed for 3 pm.
By 3.30 pm there was no interpreter from the court supplier, Applied Language Solutions, owned by Capita. The clerk mentioned there was an interpreter in the building in another court and it would take 40-45 minutes for that interpreter to become available. The judge had to adjourn the case until another day. The defendants were taken back to the cells without a clue of what went on.
On this occasion an ALS interpreter was unable to handle both cases in the same court, however, here is another observation. Four Russian interpreters were booked for different defendants on the same day in Boston Magistrates’ Court a few days ago. I thought this is exactly the situation Nick Herbert (the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice) said we would avoid under the new ALS system when he spoke at the adjournment debate on 10th October 2011. Specifically he said: “The difference with our new framework agreement is that the court staff and the CPS each make a single phone call or send a single e-mail to ALS. ALS then not only contacts the interpreters, but its infrastructure means that it knows about the two jobs and can ensure that one interpreter is used for both jobs - saving on costs for the justice sector and providing a more worthwhile piece of work for the interpreter who is booked.”
The reality has turned out exactly the opposite: ALS sends same-language interpreters for separate cases, one interpreter can’t often handle more than one case and court staff make more than one phone call or send more than one email trying to chase ALS interpreters the company can’t supply!
A practical joke? It would be, if it wasn’t about justice, how many wake-up calls do ministers need?