Monday, 31 January 2011

PQ - 31st January 2011

31 Jan 2011
Interpretation and Translation Services

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the written ministerial statement of 15 September 2010, Official Report, columns 46-47WS, on interpretation and translation services (justice sector),
(1) what steps he plans to take to maintain the quality of translation and interpretation services for defendants under his proposals;
(2) what progress has been made on the procurement of translation and interpretation services for defendants under his proposals;
(3) what estimate he has made of the likely cost saving to his Department of implementation of the proposed changes in each of the next three years;
(4) whether he has consulted (a) the National Register of Public Service Interpreters and (b) the National Register of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind people on the proposed changes to procurement of translation and interpretation services for defendants;
(5) what qualifications translators and interpreters for defendants will be required to hold under his proposals;
(6) whether he consulted (a) police forces, (b) HM Courts Service, (c) the National Offender Management Service and (d) the Crown Prosecution Service on his proposed changes to procurement of translation and interpretation services for defendants.

Crispin Blunt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Prisons and Probation), Justice; Reigate, Conservative)
The project to review the provision of interpretation and translation services was begun under the previous administration which, like the present Government, recognised that there was room for improvement in the existing arrangements.
My officials are now in the final stages of a competitive dialogue procurement process with shortlisted bidders. When the process is at an end Ministers will make a decision whether or not to let a framework arrangement.
We have made it clear throughout that quality must be maintained. Any framework arrangement would specify quality standards. Key performance indicators would be used to ensure that a supplier met their contractual obligations. The qualifications to be required of interpreters and translators are currently being finalised.
Annual spend on interpretation and translation services across the criminal and civil justice sectors is estimated to be around £60million. If we were to let a framework arrangement we would hope to see savings of at least 10%.
Last summer my officials wrote to a wide range of stakeholders including the National Register of Public Service Interpreters and also Signature (who administer the National Register of Communication Professionals working with deaf and deafblind people) to inform them of our plans and to seek their comments.
This work is being taken forward by a project board which includes representatives of the Association of Chief Police Officers, the National Policing Improvement Agency, HM Court Service, the Tribunal Service, the Crown Prosecution Service and the National Offender Management Service.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Private Eye, Issue 1280, 21st January 2011

Speakers cornered

Language interpreters used by four police forces in north-west England are refusing to work for the agency that won the contract and are challenging the contract with a judicial review.
Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria police outsourced their interpreting services last year in exclusive deals with and agency called Applied Language Solutions (ALS). Previously, the forces had hired interpreters directly whenever they needed to talk to suspects, witnesses or victims who didn’t speak English well enough.
Normal guidelines for the use of interpreters in the Criminal Justice System say foreign-language interpreters working in courts or police stations should be registered on the National register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) to guarantee quality and guard against miscarriages of justice.
But many registered interpreters refuse to work for ALS. They take issue with its pisspoor rates of pay, its record on handling personal data (for which it has been reprimanded by the Information Commissioner) and its use of unqualified workers. As a result, there are no registered interpreters available for languages including Vietnamese, Slovak, Turkish, Thai, Polish, Mandarin and French. Police however have to accept unregistered people sent by the agency (if it can find anyone) or beg their bosses for permission to call NRPSI interpreters at extra expense.
The Professional Interpreters’ Alliance (PIA), formed in response to the outsourcing, has gathered a catalogue of ALS failures since August, mostly uncovered because NRPSI interpreters have been belatedly called to the rescue. These include incidents where suspects have had to be bailed because it has taken ALS so long to find an interpreter; where police and duty solicitors have been unable to understand an interpreter’s poor English; and where interpreters have been supplied for the wrong language (such as a Czech interpreter being sent for an interview with a Slovak-speaking suspect).
As revealed by the Eye in 2009, after Thames Valley Police made a similar deal with agency Language Line, one in fifteen of the interpreters sent to police stations were not properly qualified or registered. In the same year, the use of unqualified foreign students in the Scottish courts sparked serious fears of wrongful convictions and wrongful acquittals. Despite these failings being brought to their attention by interpreters and MPs, the north-west forces pushed ahead with the deal anyway. The application for judicial review is due to be heard in March.
The police forces have told the PIA that there is “no legal requirement” to use registered interpreters. However, the PIA says not to do so runs counter not only to the national guidelines, drawn up in 2001 by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform, but also the recommendations of the Auld report, the Runciman Royal Commission, CPS guidance, Law Society guidance, a recent EU directive, and, ultimately, the Human Rights Act.

Private Eye, Issue 1280, 21st January 2011 - Page 30 (Criminal Justice Roundup)

NICTS - Interpreter and Translation Services

Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service - Interpreter and Translation Services

Interpreter and Translation Services Quarterly Bulletin