There ‘is Little Point’ In Capita/ALS Deal, Says Judge
15th October 2012: Judge Francis Sheridan said ‘serious misconduct is proven’ when he summoned Applied Language Solutions (now Capita Translation and Interpreting) to a hearing about the company’s failure to supply interpreters for two court cases at Aylesbury Crown Court. Sitting at Amersham on 12th October Judge Sheridan called the company ‘impertinent’ for suggesting ‘Courts should check’ whether an interpreter was lined up or not.
Counsel for ALS/Capita said they had made 123 attempts to find a Romanian interpreter for one of the court hearings in question, but failed to do so. Judge Sheridan stated it ‘was an ALS failure and they should not hold this contract if it is too difficult for them.’ He went on to say that if procedures allowed for Courts to book their own interpreters direct (as suggested by ALS Counsel) then the contract ‘is totally redundant’ and ‘there is little point in having ALS’.
He stated that “ALS didn’t act in time and the way they dealt with it represents serious misconduct”. He said (referring to the Romanian interpreter which ALS failed to supply for Monday 25 June) “you can’t give notice to a Court on a Sunday, and still hold to a promise to deliver”. He noted that other submissions were “irrelevant”, and invited the National Audit Office to consider whether “the contract was even remotely viable”, although it wasn’t ALS’ fault that they did not have enough interpreters, but “if they didn’t they should say so”.
He went on to say that the Ministry of Justice “may like to look at this contract again”, given that a Crown Court trial costs £12,500 minimum per day and “some people may think the middle man is unnecessary”. The second case related to failure to supply a Vietnamese interpreter for 10 September. Judge Sheridan gave the example of transport and escort costs of £2,000 for two defendants in custody in order for them to be produced at Court for a hearing, as it was in this case.
Geoffrey Buckingham, Chairman, Association of Police and Court Interpreters (APCI), who attended the hearing, said: “Judge Sheridan’s comments showed the frustrations and the mounting costs to the tax payer. We hope that the two parliamentary inquiries will conclude that this contract is unsalvageable and should be set aside, so that the professional interpreter groups can begin a proper dialogue with the Ministry of Justice.”
Geoffrey Buckingham has been invited to give evidence to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee today (15th October) which will look into the findings of the National Audit Office (NAO) after its report uncovered “shocking failings” in the way in which the contract was awarded and implemented, whilst the House of Commons Justice Select Committee is also poised to publish its own findings after its hearing which takes place on Tuesday 23rd October.
The NAO report has uncovered flaws not only in the award of the contract but in the evaluation of risks as well as unrealistic forecasts and miscalculations – errors that have been echoed in the recent debacle involving the West Coast Mainline contract.
Judge Francis Sheridan passed judgement on 12th October on two cases where ALS/Capita wasted court time by failing to supply interpreters. One case related to 25 June when ALS/Capita failed to supply a Romanian interpreter (T20120154 CUSUTURA Dumitru) and another concerning a Vietnamese interpreter booked for 10 September who failed to attend. (T20120259 TRAN Dung V and NGUYEN Chinh.)
In summary (re CUSUTURA Dumitru) the judge restated that Counsel should not suffer financial loss due to ALS failure and confirmed a third party costs order against them in the sum of £137, saying they were fortunate that no court time had been lost.
In the case of TRAN and NGUYEN, the judge stated that he found the interpreter, Miss Wilkins, who sent an email saying that ‘she was busy on that day’ and gave no proper notice that she was not attending, guilty of misconduct and she had accepted liability to Counsel’s costs. However the order made on 5th October was reduced on 12th October due to her low level of means.
Interpreters’ representative bodies had repeatedly warned the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) of the flaws in the Framework Agreement prior to its implementation. On 2nd October they wrote collectively to Helen Grant MP, Minister for Justice requesting a meeting. An earlier letter of 12th July to former Justice Minister Crispin Blunt received no reply.
According to Guillermo Makin, Chairman of the Society for Public Service Interpreting, (SPSI): “Cambridgeshire Constabulary and the Welsh police forces, through the Wales Interpretation and Translation Service (WITS) have achieved 40% year-on-year cost savings following proper consultation with interpreters’ representative bodies, yet the MoJ has scandalously failed to consider the alternative strategies that we, as a profession, have put forward.”
The Metropolitan Police also use an alternative model whereby substantial savings have been achieved by reorganising the service delivery in-house.
For more information please contact:
Penny Arbuthnot, Involvis Ltd
01473 356341 / 07885 238374
Aisleen Marley, Involvis Ltd
Notes to Editors
•Geoffrey Buckingham (APCI) will be giving evidence to the Public Accounts Committee today (Monday 15 October). The hearing will be held in public, and will be live on parliament.uk
•Interpreters’ organisations have been asked to give live evidence to the Justice Select Committee on 23 October by way of a panel of three. Those will be the National Register, in the form of the Chairman, Ted Sangster; Madeleine Lee, Director of the Professional Interpreters’ Alliance (PIA) and Nick Rosenthal, Chairman of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI)
Interpreters for Justice
Interpreters for Justice is united against the Ministry of Justice’s Framework Agreement for the provision of public service interpreting and was formed by the Association of Police and Court Interpreters (APCI) and the Society for Public Service Interpreting (SPSI) in order to represent the views of their members, all of whom are committed to upholding the quality and professionalism of public service interpreting in the UK.
Follow Interpreters for Justice on Twitter for updates on ALS / Capita and court cases affected: @United4Justice
Also see www.linguistlounge.org for commentary and updates.