Court chaos forces UK Ministry of Justice to change instructions to Courts

The Ministry of Justice has been forced to temporarily drop the new Framework Agreement designed to regulate the supply of Police and Court Public Service Interpreters in the UK.

Following chaos in courts across the country, Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service will, for a transitional period, no longer be booking interpreters through Applied Language Solutions (ALS), the outsourced commercial agency who took over responsibility for the provision of interpreters on January 30th 2012.

The announcement was made yesterday morning (16th February) by HMCTS, which issued a letter to all courts emphasising the need to take “urgent action” to mitigate the number of hearings that are failing as a result of ALS’ difficulties with sourcing interpreters at short notice. The suspension will remain in place until HMCTS is satisfied that ALS will be able to meet future demand, with courts being instructed to revert back to the previous arrangement of booking interpreters directly for the time being.

The news has attracted further criticism of the MoJ and ALS from interpreters’ associations across the UK, who have been opposed to the misguided Framework Agreement since its conception. Geoffrey Buckingham, Chairman of the APCI (Association of Police and Court Interpreters), says that the majority of nationally registered interpreters are refusing to bail out the MoJ:
“We will not connive at our own extinction. It is unacceptable that these temporary measures seek to prop up the failed regime with the support of the very Registered Public Service Interpreters whose livelihoods it is destroying.”

Campaign group Interpreters for Justice says that the suspension of the contract with ALS only serves to demonstrate that the new arrangements were deeply flawed from the outset:
“The MoJ was offered the chance to work in collaboration with interpreters to secure the huge savings (some 40% plus) achieved by Cambridgeshire Constabulary and through WILTS in Wales. The MoJ was also warned that by ignoring the National Register and outsourcing to a private contractor, there would be no quality assurance, resulting in unacceptably large numbers of persons holding no interpreter qualification*”, says Guillermo Makin, Chairman of the SPSI (Society of Public Service Interpreters).
An independent report commissioned last year by the APCI (Association of Police & Court Interpreters) and SPSI (Society of Public Service Interpreters) indicated that the majority of their members will not work under the Framework Agreement. Geoffrey Buckingham adds:

“60% of the 2,300 interpreters currently registered on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters are refusing to work for ALS due to unviable working conditions and low assessment standards. Courts and police forces will therefore have no quality assurance; there will be insufficient interpreters to meet the demand and court hearings will have to be adjourned.”

He continues: “The economic model published in an independent report by Involvis last year predicted costs in year one of nearly a quarter of a billion pounds. That may prove an under-calculation given the current catastrophe.”

Interpreters for Justice is united against the MoJ's new Framework Agreement for the provision of public service interpreting and was formed by the APCI and SPSI in order to represent the views of their members, all of whom are highly qualified, interpreting professionals.
Press Release / Interpreters for Justice / 17 February 2012

Here are the latest press reports:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17009115

http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/opinion/letters/language-barrier-1

http://www.thelawyer.com/lost-in-translation/1011472.article

http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/news/local/court_frustration_over_missing_interpreters_1_3542391

http://www.familylawweek.co.uk/site.aspx?i=ed95925

http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/opinion/the-unavoidable-impression-a-department-which-being-run-hoof

http://www.thelawyer.com/moj-ditches-new-court-interpreting-system-in-face-of-major-backlash/1011534.article

http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/at-a-glance/main-section/judge_lost_for_words_as_trial_halted_over_lack_of_interpreter_1_4275486