Tier 3 linguist in action, Skegness Magistrates' Court
I visited Skegness Magistrates Court yesterday (20.03.2012) where I worked for the CPS and their 3 witnesses. The defendant, a Polish national, had an ALS linguist present to interpret for him. It was a male, wearing black trainers, mudded jeans, long sleeved sweat shirt and a cardigan. He was not wearing any ID badge and was absolutely unprepared as he didn’t even have a notepad.
I spoke to this ALS linguist and he informed me that he had been working for ALS for the past 3 months and they were sending him to courts from the very beginning. Mr. XX registered with ALS and was allocated to Tier 3 because he had no qualifications. He told me that because ALS is short of interpreters they offer him Tier 2 jobs and he was ever so happy to accept them. He told me he had no qualifications whatsoever, he had not been vetted, and/or assessed in anyway (oral or written). He told me he only had an old CRB certificate but ALS had not seen it.
He said he was not bothered to do the DPSI diploma, because he worked for courts without any qualifications and there was no point for him to spend money on this.
He also said: "ALS is a mess...they do not know who works for them...they send anyone just to fill the gaps...I have heard about their assessments, but they were not bothered to assess me yet".
This ALS linguist travelled from Northampton to Skegness. According to maps.google.com this is around 100 miles journey each way and according to my calculations that's at least 3.5 hours of travel each way. He said he would make a claim for 8 of hours travel for yesterday's job. How cost-effective can it be?
Mr. XX was interpreting for the defendant when he was giving his own evidence from the witness’ box, which took about 20 minutes. From the very beginning Mr. XXi wasn’t behaving very professional and was omitting up to 30% of the message he was meant to interpret. The things that he was interpreting were only about 60% accurate. He was discussing matters with the defendant (maybe trying to establish the facts) and not informing those present about what was going on. He was adding a lot of things from himself and clearly making some things up. When he was trying to interpret he was not making any notes and obviously he was omitting a lot of things e.g. he didn’t interpret one thought of the defendant when the latter said, he was talking with his friend K, present at that time. Mr. XX was gesticulating with his whole body to describe the defendant’s movements and he didn't interpret some of the prosecutor’s questions to the defendant.
Some other examples of his performance:
Defendant (D): she sat at my table with her feet on the table, where I kept my lemonade
ALS linguist (ALS): she sat at my table and she was holding my lemonade
D: I was talking to my acquaintance
ALS: I was talking to my accountant
D: she was staggering
ALS: she was moving funny
D: it happened at night
ALS: it happened in the evening
D: a moment later
ALS: after a while
D: a week ago I had been to Poland, where I stayed for 2 weeks
ALS: two weeks ago I had been in Poland
D: she has hit to my face
ALS: she hit in my face
D: few minutes later
ALS: two minutes later
D: 2 minutes later
ALS: 20-30 seconds later
Luckily the defendant could understand some English and therefore was replying to the questions that he was asked and not the ones that were interpreted to him.
After the case was over, I spoke to the legal adviser and to the District Judge and raised the above concerns. Both, the District Judge and the legal adviser were worried and under the impression that the ALS linguist was not up to the job. Despite the fact that they could not speak or understand the Polish language they were convinced that the quality of ALS linguist’s services was not satisfactory. The legal adviser made a note in the case file about all above mentioned concerns and was told by the District Judge to report this to the HMCS Manager.