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Ministry of Justice Slammed By Parliament Over Court Translation Services

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A parliamentary committee has called the Ministry of Justice ‘shambolic” in its handling of the outsourcing of court interpreting services to Applied Language Solutions (ALS, now Capita Translation and Interpreting).

The Justice Committee report published last month stated that the MoJ:

Did not have an adequate understanding of the needs of courts;
Failed to heed warnings from professionals concerned; and
Did not put sufficient safeguards in place to prevent interruptions in the provision of quality interpreting services to courts.

The evidence before the Committee suggested that the MoJ failed to properly understand the complexities of court interpreting and pushed ahead with the contract despite warnings that the plans proposed would diminish quality standards amongst those employed to provide court interpreting services. Indeed, professional interpreters largely boycotted the scheme and refused to work for ALS, which found quickly that it did not have the resources to fulfil its obligations to the court for defendants, victims and witnesses. The result was serious and immediate operational problems leading to cancelled hearings and mis-translated proceedings and evidence, with particular effect on the criminal justice system, in which translators can be relied on from arrest to post-trial proceedings.

Helen Grant, Under Secretary of State for Justice conceded problems with the service initially, but said that there had been dramatic improvements and that “the changes we have made have led to major savings for taxpayers, totalling £15m in the first year”. The Committee however states that such savings are illusionary, as the contract is currently being financially supported by Capita, and so any savings are effectively only coming at Capita’s expense, which leads to the conclusion the arrangement is financially unstable long term. In addition to the mounting costs, there is little evidence of any improvement in practice, with serious and frequent failings in the service still being reported, including proceedings being translated incorrectly or not at all.

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