Monday, 30 July 2012

Case adjourned "because an interpreter was unavailable"

http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/news/local/man-appears-in-court-charged-with-kicking-mp-1-4109920
30 July 2012

Man appears in court charged with ‘kicking’ MP
A man has appeared in court today (Monday) charged with kicking Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson. […]
However, the case was adjourned until tomorrow because an interpreter was unavailable.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Justice Select Committee calls for evidence into interpreting and translation services

http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/newsandevents/news/view=newsarticle.law?NEWSID=447658
26 July 2012

Justice Select Committee calls for evidence into interpreting and translation services
The Justice Select Committee has announced an inquiry into the provision of interpretation and translation services since Applied Language Solutions (ALS) began operating as the Ministry of Justice's sole contractor for language services in February 2012, and has called for evidence.
The Law Society is considering submitting evidence to the Committee in relation to one area under its consideration, and in which our members may have had experience, namely whether the new arrangements for the provision of interpreter and translation services as of February 2012 has affected the court or tribunal hearings in which they have been involved.
If you, as a solicitor, have had any direct experience of the provision of interpreters in courts or tribunals by ALS that may be of interest to the Select Committee and which we could include in a submission, please email brief details by Monday 6 August to consultationresponse@lawsociety.org.uk.

MoJ's use of interpretation & translation service is questioned

http://www.newlawjournal.co.uk/nlj/content/interpreting-problems
26 July 2012

Interpreting problems
MoJ's use of interpretation & translation service is questioned
The Justice Select Committee has launched a call for written evidence on the provision of interpretation and translation services since Applied Language Solutions (ALS) began operating as the Ministry of Justice’s sole contractor for language services in February 2012.
ALS has encountered numerous hitches since accepting the contract. The committee aims to explore the reasons for changing the arrangements for interpreter services, the nature of the procurement process, the experiences of courts and prisons, the effectiveness of the complaints process, steps taken to resolve under-performance, and the arrangements for monitoring the management of the contract. Submissions are due by 3 September.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Good news there will be investigation of ALS contract


Good news there will be investigation of ALS contract by the Justice Select Committee - Andy Slaughter
Commenting on the news the House of Commons Justice Select Committee is to launch an inquiry into the Ministry of Justice interpreters contract with ALS, Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter MP said:
"It is good news that there will be an independent investigation of the ALS contract by the Justice Select Committee. The Government claims ALS's performance is improving, but this is based on information collected by ALS themselves.
”Qualified interpreters across the country are still reporting court cases collapsing and interpreters either not showing or unable to translate adequately. There are real concerns at the impact this will have on the public's confidence in our justice system and on the cost to the taxpayer of delayed and cancelled trials.
”But as well as the performance, it's vital the Committee looks at the way ALS obtained the contract, the subsequent sale to Capita and the collapse of the savings target from an original £18 million to below £12 million."

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Hampshire police insists it won't use Applied Language Solutions for interpreters

http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/9831067.Force_won_t_switch_to_cheaper_interpreters/

Hampshire police insists it won't use Applied Language Solutions for interpreters
Hampshire police say they have no plans to save money by switching to a cheaper translation firm which has come under fire nationally because their staff are not up to the job.
The force said it would continue to hire translators through the National Register of Public Service Interpreters – an organisation formed in early 2000 to regulate interpreters – instead of switching to the cheaper service being provided by Applied Language Solutions (ALS).
Their comments came after the Daily Echo exclusively revealed yesterday the fiasco at a murder trial at Winchester Crown Court which had to be halted because of a problem with an unqualified interpreter.
As we reported, the judge, Mr Justice Barnett, temporarily stopped the trial of Rajvinder Kaur when a man turned up to translate because his wife – the real interpreter – was busy elsewhere.
He wrongly translated a number of key words and phrases.
Investigations found he was not qualified or registered with ALS, but his wife had been booked for the job through the company.
When a second interpreter was brought in on Monday, she was also incapable of relaying key words to the witness giving evidence in the murder trial.
A full-scale investigation is now under way by the Justice Select Committee, a powerful parliamentary committee, into the awarding of the contract to ALS by the Government in a bid to save cash.
Nationally there have been more than 2,300 complaints regarding ALS and their interpreters who have turned up late if at all, and then been unable to do the job required.
Jo Rowland, head of custody and criminal justice for the force, said there were no plans to switch to the cheaper firm.
She said: “The situation is that Hampshire Constabulary's interpreting services are sourced in-house using the NRPSI Register.
“ALS is the provider procured nationally by the Ministry of Justice to provide interpreting services in all courts in England and Wales, entirely separate from the police.”

Saturday, 21 July 2012

MPs launch inquiry into translation shambles which let suspects walk free

http://www.birminghammail.net/news/top-stories/2012/07/21/mps-launch-inquiry-into-translation-shambles-which-let-suspects-walk-free-97319-31440794/
Jul 21 2012 by Jonathan Walker

MPs launch inquiry into translation shambles which let suspects walk free
A high-level inquiry has been launched into a shambolic new interpreter service which has allowed foreign suspects to walk free from police custody.
The House of Commons Justice Select Committee has launched an investigation into a cost-cutting scheme which was supposed to save West Midlands Police £12 million, but was plagued by reports of translators failing to turn up or making mistakes.
The Birmingham Mail revealed earlier this year that police in the region had been forced to release arrested foreign suspects on bail because they could not get interpreters for police station interviews. In some cases, officers were forced to hire linguists from as far afield as Leeds and Manchester.
It followed the Ministry of Justice’s decision to save money by employing firm Applied Language Solutions to provide translation services across the country.
The business claimed to be able to offer cheap services but this involved cutting the pay interpreters received. In practice, interpreters simply refused to sign new contracts, leaving the business unable to provide the services it had promised.
Applied Language Solutions is owned by Capita, one of the firms in the running to sign a £1.5 billion partnership deal with West Midlands and Surrey police forces.
MP Alan Beith, chair of the Justice Select Committee, announced the launch of the inquiry. A series of hearings are expected to take place at Westminster in September.
Guillermo Makin, chairman of the Society for Public Service Interpreting, said: “Professionally qualified and experienced interpreters have valiantly upheld their ethical principles by not signing up for a system which cannot be sustained and which is degrading British justice and breaking the law on a person’s right to a fair trial.”

Trial stopped as murder case translator was only there because his wife - the real interpreter - was 'too busy to show up'

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2176840/Trial-stopped-murder-case-translator-wife--real-interpreter--busy-up.html


Trial stopped as murder case translator was only there because his wife - the real interpreter - was 'too busy to show up'
A murder trial turned into a farce when an interpreter confessed half-an-hour into vital evidence that he was a fake, filling in for his busy wife.
The judge halted the trial of Rajvinder Kaur, who killed her mother-in-law with a rolling pin, when the court realised interpreter Mubarak Lone was leaving out key words and phrases in his translating.
Mr Lone was interpreting for Kaur’s husband, Iqbal Singh, who spoke Punjabi, but struggled to even get the oath right for the Sikh witness at Winchester Crown Court in Hampshire.
He was finally caught out by junior counsel Sukhdev Garcha, who also spoke the language, half-an-hour into the faltering evidence.
In the absence of the jury, Mr Lone was forced to confess to Mr Justice Barnett that he was not a qualified translator and was awaiting the results of his interpreter test.
He later revealed that his wife - the booked interpreter - was busy and he had come to do her job instead.
It comes after a series of problems with translators supplied by Applied Language Solutions (ALS),  who were recently  given a Government contract to supply translators to courts.
Judges and court officials across the country have criticised the Ministry of Justice's deal with ALS after stories of translators failing to arrive for trials or unable to accurately interpret proceedings for defendants, witnesses and victims.
Kaur, 37, was yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment and told she would serve a minimum term of 11 years for battering her mother-in-law Baljit Kaur Buttar to death with a rolling pin at her home in Southampton last February.
Defence barrister Jonathan Fuller QC said Mr Lone wrongly translated words, such as saying 'bitter; instead of 'irritable' and 'Allah' instead of 'One God'.
But the farce continued.
A second translator drafted in to cover the case, was 'completely out of her depth' and in the end the case was only able to continue with the assistance of Mr Garcha.
In total it wasted a day of work at the court, at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds.
Mr Garcha said: 'I couldn’t believe the first interpreter was so woefully inadequate and then it happened again with the second who was completely out of her depth.
'She didn’t understand a lot of words and phrases and her vocabulary was completely lacking.
'If I hadn’t spoken up then people in the court would have thought everything was being interpreted correctly.
'It would have been to the detriment of our client - we could have had a miscarriage of justice.
'That’s the price you pay.'
Defence barrister Jonathan Fuller QC added: 'It’s at the very heart of the justice system because the words are the evidence.
'If you find, as a defence counsel, that you are calling evidence on words that are unreliable then that is the start of a miscarriage of justice.'
Mr Justice Barnett told the court: ‘This is extremely unfortunate, to use a classic understatement.’
In a brief statement, ALS said it would not comment on individual cases.
‘Any complaints received about interpreters are investigated thoroughly and, where necessary, the interpreter is suspended from working with ALS until the investigation is complete.
'At that point ALS will either remove them from its register, reinstate them or provide further training, as appropriate,’ it said.
ALS has claimed its contract, which started formally on February 1, would save the Government £60 million over five years.
But many interpreters said they had boycotted the firm in reaction to low rates of pay, claiming that led to a struggle by ALS to recruit translators, and prompting the use of untrained people in courts.
The company is being monitored daily after failing to meet targets. It was eight per cent off target from January to April this year, prompting action from the Ministry of Justice.

The New Indian Express: Fake interpreter turns up at Indian woman's murder trial

http://newindianexpress.com/world/article573374.ece

Fake interpreter turns up at Indian woman's murder trial
The trial of a 37-year-old Punjabi woman, accused of killing her mother-in-law with a rolling pin, was stopped by the judge after the interpreter confessed half an hour later that he was a fake and filling in for his busy wife.
Rajvinder Kaur has been sentenced to life imprisonment. She would have to serve a minimum term of 11 years for battering her mother-in-law Baljit Kaur Buttar to death at her home in Southampton in February last year, the Daily Mail reported Saturday.
The judge halted the trial when the court realised interpreter Mubarak Lone was leaving out key words and phrases in his translating.
Lone was interpreting for Kaur's husband, Iqbal Singh, who spoke Punjabi. He struggled to even get the oath right for the Sikh witness at the Winchester Crown Court in Hampshire.
The fake interpreter was finally caught by junior counsel Sukhdev Garcha, who also spoke Punjabi, half an hour into the trial.
Lone confessed that he was not a qualified translator and was awaiting the results of his interpreter test.
He later revealed that his wife - the actual interpreter - was busy and he had come to do her job instead.
Defence barrister Jonathan Fuller said Lone wrongly translated words, such as saying "bitter" instead of "irritable" and "Allah" instead of "one god".

Murder trial halted as stand-in
translator caught out

http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/at-a-glance/main-section/murder-trial-halted-as-stand-in-translator-caught-out-1-4761895
21 July 2012

Murder trial halted as stand-intranslator caught out
A murder trial was halted for a day because an unqualified interpreter – filling in for his wife – could not accurately translate questions from a barrister.
The man turned up at Winchester Crown Court 45 minutes late and concerns were raised after 30 minutes that he was not translating questions into Punjabi properly for a key witness during the trial of mother-of-two Rajvinder Kaur.
He later revealed that the booked interpreter – his wife – was busy and he had come to do her job. He said that he had taken the ALS interpreter test but not received his results.
The judge, Mr Justice Burnett, was forced to halt the trial last Friday, but a similar event happened the following Monday when a female interpreter turned up and was not able to correctly translate evidence.
The court was able to carrying on sitting with help from Kaur’s junior counsel Sukhdev Garcha, who speaks Punjabi and who had raised concerns in both cases.
Both translators were supplied by Applied Language Solutions (ALS) which won given a Government contract to supply translators to courts, but has been heavily criticised after stories of translators failed to arrive for trials or were unable to accurately interpret proceedings.
Kaur, 37, was yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment and told she would serve a minimum term of 11 years for battering her mother-in-law Baljit Kaur Buttar to death with a rolling pin at her home in Southampton last February.
In a brief statement, ALS said it would not comment on individual cases.
“Any complaints received about interpreters are investigated thoroughly and, where necessary, the interpreter is suspended from working with ALS until the investigation is complete.
“At that point ALS will either remove them from its register, reinstate them or provide further training, as appropriate,” it said.
ALS has claimed its contract, which started formally on February 1, would save the Government £60m over five years.
But many interpreters said they had boycotted the company because its low rates of pay, claiming that led to a struggle by ALS to recruit translators, and prompting the use of untrained people in courts.
The company is being monitored daily after failing to meet targets.
It was eight per cent off target from January to April this year, prompting action from the Ministry of Justice.

Court interpreter farce halts murder trial

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/court-interpreter-farce-halts-murder-trial-7962587.html
21 July 2012 by Terri Judd

Court interpreter farce halts murder trial
Private firm under fire after man is caught standing in for qualified wife who was 'busy'
A murder trial was brought to a sudden halt this week when the court interpreter confessed that he was simply an unqualified stand-in for his wife, who was busy.
The trial had to be temporarily suspended at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds – the latest in a series of farcical episodes since court interpreting was contracted to a private firm earlier this year.
Other recent incidents include a man who was charged with perverting the course of justice being told he was accused of being a "pervert", and solicitors using Google Translate.
The latest problem came to light as Mubarak Lone struggled to explain evidence in the trial of Rajvinder Kaur, who is accused of battering her mother-in-law to death with a rolling pin. He was supposed to be translating for Kaur's husband, Iqbal Singh, but could not even manage to get the oath right for the Sikh witness.
Repeated attempts by the defence barrister Jonathan Fuller, QC, to question the witness at Winchester Crown Court failed as Mr Lone left out key words and phrases. Eventually another barrister, who spoke Punjabi, alerted the court to the problem.
Mr Lone was forced to admit, in the absence of the jury, that it was in fact his wife who had been contracted by Applied Language Solutions (ALS) but that she had other commitments so he had taken her place. He told the judge he had taken the interpreter test set by ALS but had not received his results and was not accredited.
Mr Justice Barnett told the court: "This is extremely unfortunate, to use a classic understatement."
But the problems continued when the trial recommenced with a new interpreter, who also failed to translate the evidence properly. The case was only able to continue with the assistance of Kaur's junior counsel, Sukhdev Garcha.
The trial eventually ended on Thursday when Kaur was convicted and sentenced to life with a minimum term of 11 years.
It is the latest in a string of incidents since February when the Ministry of Justice decided to replace the system under which interpreters were hired ad-hoc with a single private contract, awarded to ALS, in an attempt to slash the £60m annual bill by a third.
In a burglary case at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London, a retrial was ordered when it emerged that the Romanian interpreter had muddled the words "beaten" and "bitten".
In another case a man charged with perverting the course of justice was told he was "a pervert", while a volunteer had to be pulled from the public gallery to translate for a Slovak defendant.
Both the Commons Justice Select Committee and the National Audit Office have confirmed that they may investigate the new private contract.
The Ministry of Justice insisted recently that it had seen "sustained improvement".
A spokesman for ALS said yesterday: "Any complaints are investigated thoroughly and, where necessary, the interpreter is suspended until the investigation is complete. At that point ALS will either remove them from its register, reinstate them or provide further training, as appropriate."

Profile: Dragon's Den star's vision got lost in translation
When Gavin Wheeldon went on Dragon's Den in 2007 with his new translating company, Applied Language Solutions, the Dragons were suitably impressed. None opted to invest their own cash, but Duncan Bannatyne predicted: "I think you'll prove all the Dragons wrong and I think you'll do tremendously well." He was half right. ALS went on to win a £300m contract to provide all translating services for the courts, but has been heavily criticised and blamed for a string of failed and delayed cases. Mr Wheeldon has nonetheless made a fortune, selling ALS in December for £7.5m.

Friday, 20 July 2012

"Case postponed due to the lack of an interpreter"

[...] "Marek Stofej was due to appear at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on Monday, but the case was postponed due to the lack of an interpreter."

Judge demands answers from court interpreter suppliers

http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/news/local/judge-demands-answers-from-court-interpreter-suppliers-1-4081576
20 July 2012 by Stephen Briggs

Judge demands answers from court interpreter suppliers
A crown court judge has hit out at interpreting services after an interpreter cancelled a booking just hours before a hearing was due to start.
Judge Nic Madge ordered representatives of Applied Language Solutions (ALS) to attend Peterborough Crown Court on Friday to explain why a Lithuanian interpreter did not turn up for a hearing she was booked to attend on July 2.
He said if it was found that ALS were guilty of serious misconduct by not supplying an interpreter, he would order them to pay the “wasted” costs of £200 from the cancelled hearing.
ALS have a contract with The Ministry of Justice to supply interpreters for court hearings across the country.
Laura Mackinnon, representing ALS, said: “At 1.19pm on June 29 the request for the hearing on July 2 at 10am was made.
“At 1.38pm an offer was accepted by Zivlle Lebeikiele, a Lithuanian interpreter. Nothing was heard from her by ALS until 6.18am on July 2, when she telephoned ALS to say she was double booked and could not attend.
“She had accepted three other jobs through a separate arm of ALS.
“She had accepted a job at 7.30am on July 2 on June 21, a 10am start on July 2 on June 25 and an 11am job on July 2 on May 30, all with NHS Peterborough. There is no link between the two booking systems.”
Ms Mackinnon said after ALS received the call from Mrs Lebeikiele they made a number of calls, emails and text messages to find another interpreter but were unable to.
The court heard that Mrs Lebeikiele has been given a warning by ALS and an internal investigation is taking place.
She also said systems were being looked at to try and ensure there were no more double bookings.
Ms Mackinnon added: “In this instance ALS have not acted with serious misconduct. The booking was filled and ALS had no reason to believe an interpreter could not attend until 6.18am. They then acted with diligence to try and find a replacement.”
But Judge Madge said: “I am afraid to say there have been serious problems in this court, and others, with the provision of interpreters by ALS.”
He invited ALS to present written submissions to the court about their position within the next 14 days.
An ALS representative at the hearing refused to comment. Mrs Lebeikiele was not present at the court hearing.
Concerns raised by District Judge
Judge Madge is not the first judge in the city to critisise ALS.
In February District Judge Ken Sheraton, who sits at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court, also raised concerns and spoke of his frustration after a case had to be adjourned because an interpreter did not turn up.
He said: “This is far from being the only case affected by this and I understand it is happening across the country.”

House of Commons launches probe into MoJ interpreting contract

http://www.thelawyer.com/house-of-commons-launches-probe-into-moj-interpreting-contract/1013577.article
20 July 2012 by Ruth Green

House of Commons launches probe into MoJ interpreting contract
The House of Commons justice select committee has launched an inquiry into how Applied Languages Solutions (ALS) was awarded a contract to act as the sole supplier for court interpreters throughout England and Wales.
The inquiry follows months of chaos in court rooms as interpreters supplied by ALS made crucial interpreting errors, turned up late and in some cases did turn up not at all. The new system was brought in by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in January to reportedly save the Government an estimated £18m a year, but since then a large number of trials have collapsed and repeatedly been readjourned and the Government has been issued with several wasted costs orders following these retrials (9 March 2012).
The inquiry, which was launched on 18 July, proposes to investigate the rationale behind the MoJ’s decision to change the arrangements for supplying court interpreters across England and Wales; the nature and appropriateness of the procurement process; the experience of courts and prisons in receiving interpretation services that meet their needs; the nature and effectiveness of the complaints process; the steps that have been taken to rectify underperformance; and the extent to which they have been effective and the appropriateness of the current arrangements for monitoring the management of the contract, including the quality and cost-effectiveness of the service currently delivered.
In February, The Lawyer reported that the MoJ had decided to allow courts to revert to the old system of selecting interpreters from the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) for a temporary period in an effort to curtail the problem (23 February 2012).
In April The Lawyer revealed that an interpreting error in Snaresbrook Crown Court caused a a trial to be adjourned and the estimated costs for retrial were in the realm of £25,000 (17 April 2012).
ALS was granted the interpreting contract by the MoJ last August and was acquired by Capita Group for £7.5m in December 2011.
In an email seen by The Lawyer earlier this year, Gavin Wheeldon, who founded ALS in 2003, said: “35 per cent of all courts have not missed a single booking.” In a bid to convince more people to sign up to the scheme, in the email he also offered interpreters £250 as a ’recruit a friend’ bonus (9 March 2012).
Wheeldon left the company last week “to pursue other interests,” a spokesperson from Capita told The Lawyer. In relation to his departure, a Capita spokesperson said: “We thank Gavin for helping to integrate ALS into Capita and wish him well with his new business initiatives.” Capita declined to comment specifically on the justice select committee’s inquiry.
Commenting on the inquiry, an MoJ spokesperson said: “There were an unacceptable number of problems at the start of the new contract in January but we’ve now seen a significant improvement in performance. We continue to work with the contractor to bring performance to the required level.”

Unqualified ALS interpreter revealed to have halted Rajvinder Kaur trial

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/unqualified-als-interpreter-revealed-to-have-halted-rajvinder-kaur-trial-7962231.html
20 July 2012

Unqualified ALS interpreter revealed to have halted Rajvinder Kaur trial
A murder trial was halted for a day after an unqualified interpreter - filling in for his wife - could not accurately translate questions from a barrister.
The man turned up at Winchester Crown Court 45 minutes late and concerns were raised after 30 minutes that he was not translating questions into Punjabi properly for a key witness during the trial of mother-of-two Rajvinder Kaur.
He later revealed that his wife - the booked interpreter - was busy and he had come to do her job. He said that he had taken the ALS interpreter test but not received his results.
The judge, Mr Justice Burnett, was forced to halt the trial last Friday, but a similar event happened the following Monday when a female interpreter turned up and was not able to correctly translate evidence, the Southern Daily Echo reported.
The court was able to carrying on sitting on that day with help from Kaur's junior counsel Sukhdev Garcha, who speaks Punjabi and who had raised concerns in both cases.
Both translators were supplied by Applied Language Solutions (ALS), who have been given a Government contract to supply translators to courts.
Judges and court officials across the country have criticised the Ministry of Justice's deal with ALS after stories of translators failing to arrive for trials or unable to accurately interpret proceedings for defendants, witnesses and victims.
Kaur, 37, was yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment and told she would serve a minimum term of 11 years for battering her mother-in-law Baljit Kaur Buttar to death with a rolling pin at her home in Southampton last February.
In a brief statement, ALS said it would not comment on individual cases.
"Any complaints received about interpreters are investigated thoroughly and, where necessary, the interpreter is suspended from working with ALS until the investigation is complete. At that point ALS will either remove them from its register, reinstate them or provide further training, as appropriate," it said.
ALS has claimed its contract, which started formally on February 1, would save the Government £60 million over five years.
But many interpreters said they had boycotted the firm in reaction to low rates of pay, claiming that led to a struggle by ALS to recruit translators, and prompting the use of untrained people in courts.
The company is being monitored daily after failing to meet targets. It was 8% off target from January to April this year, prompting action from the Ministry of Justice.

MPs to investigate 'underperforming' firm awarded £300m court monopoly

http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/jul/20/mps-investigate-firm-court-monopoly
20 July 2012 by Owen Bowcott

MPs to investigate 'underperforming' firm awarded £300m court monopoly
Private interpreting contractor ALS faces investigation after cancelled court cases and complaints from judges and lawyers
The way in which a private contractor was awarded a £300m monopoly of court interpreting services throughout England and Wales and the firm's "underperformance" are to be investigated by MPs.
The House of Commons justice select committee has called for evidence about difficulties that have emerged since Applied Language Solutions (ALS), an Oldham-based company, took over responsibility for the work in February.
ALS was acquired by the public-service provider Capita after winning the contract but there have been complaints from lawyers, magistrates and judges about the service. The National Audit Office also said it was "looking into the matter" following requests from parliament's influential public accounts committee.
Court cases have repeatedly been cancelled, while hundreds of professional interpreters have boycotted the new contract because they refuse to work for reduced rates and lower travel expenses. In one case, it was said, a court had to resort to Google's online computer translation because no Lithuanian interpreter could be found.
A murder trial was halted for a day at Winchester crown court this month after an unqualified interpreter could not accurately translate questions from a barrister. The man arrived 45 minutes late and concerns were raised that he was not translating questions into Punjabi properly for a key witness. He later revealed that his wife – the interpreter supplied by ALS – was busy and he was filling in for her. He said he had taken the ALS interpreter test but not received his results. A second ALS interpreter had problems translating in the same trial the following week. ALS declined to comment on individual incidents.
Emily Thornberry, the shadow attorney general, has urged her opposite number, Dominic Grieve, to take contempt of court proceedings over the "failures of Applied Language Solutions to supply well-trained interpreters in a timely fashion to our courts".
In a House of Lords debate this month, the justice minister, Lord McNally, admitted the £12m savings envisaged were unlikely to be found this year. The firm, he conceded, had made "a very poor start" but insisted there had since been significant improvements.
Lady Butler-Sloss, a retired judge, asked McNally: "Are you aware of the extent of disruption and delay to criminal trials as a result of serious inaccuracies of court interpreting, which is not only leading to very considerable cost but also concerns have been … raised by judges across the country, particularly in London, in Birmingham and in Leeds?"
The justice select committee's concerns reflect heightened political anxieties about contracting out vital services to private firms, exemplified by G4S's Olympic failures.
The select committee's inquiry will be focused on six areas, including "the rationale for changing arrangements for the provision of interpreter services; the nature and appropriateness of the procurement process; and the steps taken to rectify underperformance and the extent to which they have been effective". It has asked for written evidence to be submitted by 3 September.
The founder of ALS, Gavin Wheeldon, an entrepreneur who has said he prefers Porsches to Ferraris, recently left the company "to pursue other interests", according to Capita.
Responding to the inquiry, a spokeswoman for Capita said ALS had not been called before the justice select committee. She said: "The Ministry of Justice [MoJ] awarded the contract to ALS to address the weaknesses, lack of transparency and disproportionate costs of the previous service.
"The recent release of the statistics from the MoJ concerning the contract show an improvement month on month in fulfilling requests for interpretation services (nearly 3,000 bookings a week) rising from 65% in the first month of the contract to more than 90% in April.
"This performance is continuing to improve. We are determined to get the service running at full efficiency, providing transparency of opportunity for linguists and fully supporting the MoJ, police and court service. The overall objective remains to work in partnership with the MoJ to ensure that a more efficient and effective service is in place than previous arrangements." ALS has in the past confirmed that the original MoJ tender document valued the five-year contract at £300m.
An MoJ spokesperson said: "There were an unacceptable number of problems at the start of the new contract in January but we have now seen a significant improvement in performance. We continue to work with the contractor to bring performance to the required level."
Interpreters for Justice, a campaign begun by the Association of Police and Court Interpreters (APCI) and the Society for Public Service Interpreting (SPSI) to oppose the new contract, welcomed the inquirytheinquiries by the select committee and the NAO.
Geoffrey Buckingham, chairman of APCI, said: "This outsourced contract bears all the same hallmarks as the outsourced contract for [Olympic] security hitting the headlines currently. ALS/Capita is consistently failing to meet the terms of its £75m annual contract agreement, which the professional interpreter bodies have refused to be a part of from the start. They can't recruit in sufficient numbers, the quality isn't there and there's poor management and accountability."
Guillermo Makin, chairman of SPSI, said: "Professionally qualified and experienced interpreters have valiantly upheld their ethical principles by not signing up for a system which cannot be sustained and which is degrading British justice and breaking the law on a person's right to a fair trial. We have a dossier of evidence which we will be providing to the justice select committee in response to their inquiry."
In May, the MoJ released figures showing there had been 2,232 complaints about language services in court since the beginning of the year.

Interpreter fiasco at murder trial

http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/9829131.Interpreter_fiasco_at_murder_trial/

Interpreter fiasco at murder trial
A murder trial had to be halted temporarily when a man translating vital evidence revealed he was only there because his wife – the real interpreter – was too busy.
The judge suspended the case when it became clear that Mubarak Lone was failing to translate key phrases fully and even got the oath wrong for a Sikh witness who was giving evidence.
It was only thanks to a junior defence barrister, who happened to speak Punjabi, that the problem was spotted.
Following an investigation it was discovered Mr Lone was not qualified or registered.
The fiasco can only be reported today following the conclusion of the trial of mum-of-two Rajvinder Kaur, who was yesterday sentenced to life with a minimum term of 11 years in prison, for battering her mother-in-law to death with a rolling pin.
The debacle – which delayed the case by a day, costing tens of thousands of pounds – is the latest in a long line of problems at courts across the country since the Government awarded the interpreter contract to Applied Language Solutions (ALS) in a bid to save £18m.
There have already been thousands of complaints about interpreters provided by the firm, who either turn up late, fail to appear or are not up to the job.
Now a high profile Government committee is launching an inquiry into the awarding of the contract which has brought chaos to courtrooms throughout England.
The latest problem arose at Winchester Crown Court last Friday, shortly after Mr Lone, who turned up 45 minutes late causing the trial to be delayed, was sworn in.
When he attempted to translate the oath to a Sikh witness he got it wrong.
Then, while translating for Kaur’s husband Iqbal Singh as he took the stand to give evidence concerning his mother’s murder, Mr Lone went on to omit key words and phrases.
After repeated failed attempts by defence barrister Jonathan Fuller QC to have his questions asked correctly, the judge, Mr Justice Barnett, stopped the trial.
In the absence of the jury, Mr Lone admitted his wife had been contracted by ALS to act as a translator, but she already had work commitments so he went in her place.
He went on to say he had taken the interpreter test set by ALS but had not received his results and was not accredited.
Describing the situation, Mr Justice Barnett told the court: “This is extremely unfortunate, to use a classic understatement.”
However that wasn’t the end of the matter.
When the trial recommenced on Monday morning a similar situation unfolded when a new female interpreter from ALS arrived – but once again she was not able to correctly translate words and phrases.
The case was only able to continue with the assistance of Kaur’s junior counsel, Sukhdev Garcha.
Mr Garcha told the Daily Echo: “I couldn’t believe the first interpreter was so woefully inadequate and then it happened again with the second who was completely out of her depth. She didn’t understand a lot of words and phrases and her vocabulary was completely lacking.
“If I hadn’t spoken up then people in the court would have thought everything was being interpreted correctly.
“It would have been to the detriment of our client – we could have had a miscarriage of justice. That’s the price you pay.”
Defence barrister Jonathan Fuller QC added: “It’s at the very heart of the justice system because the words are the evidence. If you find, as a defence counsel, that you are calling evidence on words that are unreliable then that is the start of a miscarriage of justice.”
Mr Justice Barnett declined to comment further.

Trial suspended as bogus interpreter stands in for wife

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9415678/Trial-suspended-as-bogus-interpreter-stands-in-for-wife.html
20 Jul 2012

Trial suspended as bogus interpreter stands in for wife
A trial was suspended after a bogus interpreter stood in for his wife because she was too busy.
A court descended into farce when a man translating vital evidence revealed he was only there because his wife - the real interpreter - was too busy.
The judge suspended the murder trial when it became clear Mubarak Lone was failing to translate key phrases fully.
He even got the oath wrong for a Sikh witness who was giving evidence at Winchester Crown Court, Hants.
It was only because a junior defence barrister happened to speak Punjabi that the problem was identified.
An investigation revealed Mr Lone was not qualified or registered as a court translator, risking a potential miscarriage of justice.
The fiasco, which happened on Friday, can only be reported today following the conclusion of the trial of mother-of-two Rajvinder Kaur, 37.
She was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 11 years in prison, for battering her mother-in-law to death with a rolling pin.
Kaur "exploded with rage" and hit Baljit Buttar, 56, around the head at least 20 times - leaving her dead on the bathroom floor of their home in Southampton, Hants.
The problem became evident shortly after Mr Lone was sworn in, having already delayed the trial by arriving 45 minutes late.
When he attempted to translate the oath to a Sikh witness he got it wrong.
And while translating for Kaur's husband Iqbal Singh as he took the stand to give evidence, Mr Lone went on to omit key words and phrases.
After repeated failed attempts by defence barrister Jonathan Fuller QC to have his questions asked correctly, the judge stopped the trial.
In the absence of the jury, Mr Lone admitted it was his wife who had been contracted by Allied Language Solutions to act as a translator.
But she already had work commitments that day so he went in her place.
Mr Lone confessed he had taken the interpreter test set by ALS but had not received his results and was not accredited.
Describing the situation, judge Mr Justice Barnett told the court: "This is extremely unfortunate, to use a classic understatement."
Mr Fuller said he had seven separate concerns about Mr Lone's translation errors.
This included wrongly translating words such as saying "bitter" instead of "irritable" and "Allah" instead of "One God".
Mr Lone also left out key words in evidence from the defendant's husband.
Mr Singh had said his mother called her two daughters-in-law "bitches from dirty parents" but Mr Lone omitted the "dirty".
When the jury were asked to withdraw Mr Lone claimed he had not heard "dirty" given in evidence.
However that was not the end of the matter.
When the trial recommenced on Monday morning a similar situation unfolded when a new female interpreter from ALS arrived.
But once again she was not able to correctly translate words and phrases.
The case was only able to continue with the assistance of Kaur's junior counsel, Sukhdev Garcha.
In total it cost the court a day's work, at a cost of tens of thousands of pounds.
Mr Garcha said: "I couldn't believe the first interpreter was so woefully inadequate and then it happened again with the second who was completely out of her depth.
"She didn't understand a lot of words and phrases and her vocabulary was completely lacking.
"If I hadn't spoken up then people in the court would have thought everything was being interpreted correctly.
"It would have been to the detriment of our client - we could have had a miscarriage of justice.
"That's the price you pay."
Defence barrister Jonathan Fuller QC added: "It's at the very heart of the justice system because the words are the evidence.
"If you find, as a defence counsel, that you are calling evidence on words that are unreliable then that is the start of a miscarriage of justice."
Mr Justice Barnett declined to comment further.

Interpreters welcome ALS probe

20 July 2012

Interpreters welcome ALS probe
Professional bodies have welcomed the announcement of a parliamentary inquiry into the multi-million-pound contract for court interpreting services awarded to Delph-based Applied Language Solutions (ALS).
ALS won the five-year government contract, which covers many interpretation services for the justice system, from face-to-face interpreting to language services for the deaf and blind.
The deal, which was expected to save £18 million a year, has been criticised for providing a service that is “getting worse not better”.
ALS, which began operating as the sole contractor for language services in February, was bought for £7.5 million by Capita in December. ALS chief executive Gavin Wheeldon and other senior executives have left the business in recent weeks.
The scheme has been plagued by reports of translators failing to turn up or making mistakes, leading to delays in court cases. Committee hearings are expected to take place at Westminster in September.