Why MoJ/ALS/Capita court interpreting statistics are not just wrong, but horrendously wrong
I have seen the preliminary response of the Information Commissioner’s Office to the appeal made as a result of the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) refusal to answer one question about case adjournments in Birmingham Crown Court. We have published the MoJ’s original reply here. The MoJ advised that it applied the exemption under Section 12 of FOIA due to the limitations of the data held centrally and the need to manually search thousands of case files at the named court. The cost of doing it would, therefore, exceed the permissible limit.
Based on what I have read in the ICO’s findings, two things have struck me most:
1. While the MOJ does centrally hold information on cracked and ineffective trials, where “Interpreters” is listed as a reason within that data, it does not record adjournments resulting from non-attendance by interpreters in all other court cases, such pre- and post-trial hearings: case management hearings and sentencing, at which interpreters are also used. As far as I know, these constitute a great percentage.
2. When asked about Applied Language Solutions (ALS) providing the MoJ with Management Information (MI) detailing its performance, the MoJ advised that the MI consists of daily and weekly fulfilment rates by venue and by language and figures on the number of bookings made, assigned at short notice and unfilled. This information also includes figures on cumulative number of assignments to date and number of planned assignments booked. This information does not include record of cases adjourned which the original question under the FoI Act was about.
I understand from the last point that the information supplied by ALS to the MoJ does not include figures of case adjournments when, for example, no interpreter showed up, even though had been booked. Nor would it be counted if an ALS interpreter came to court late, after the case had to be adjourned, or when an ALS interpreter was dismissed due to poor performance. It appears that failure to provide an interpreter wouldn’t be marked in the statistics in instances when an interpreter’s car breaks down on the way, as was reported in the media. And would this trial at Hull Crown Court be marked down in their figures, even though the trial didn’t “crack” or wasn’t “ineffective”, the reporter still points out that it “was originally listed for up to three weeks but, after a series of problems over Lithuanian interpreters, it lasted for three-and-a-half weeks.”
Court cases get routinely adjourned all over the country, due to no interpreters, another example is a story in South Somerset Magistrates’ Court, does it really mean, none of them are included in the figures supplied to the MoJ by ALS on a daily/weekly basis? What about instances when wrong language interpreters are sent?
What this goes to show is that the statistics published by the MoJ on May 24th are not just wrong, they are horrendously wrong! And this is just another argument in support to what my colleague has already pointed out in her report published on this site earlier this year.
And if such adjournments are not declared to the MoJ by ALS, the MoJ cannot apply service credits to collect money from ALS/Capita, can they?