The Ministry of Justice’s plan to save money by entering into a contract with Applied Language Solutions (ALS) has caused delays and cancellations of many proceedings after interpreters have failed to show up. Two weeks after the £300m private contract was launched, which was to provide interpreters to all courts in England and Wales, the Government has had to acknowledge that the scheme has not been working.
According to an internal Ministry of Justice email seen by the Guardian, “We have decided that Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service must take urgent action to mitigate the number of hearings that are failing as a result of the contractor’s difficulties with sourcing interpreters at short notice…
“We understand that some staff and judiciary have sympathy with existing interpreters. We must however do all we can to encourage sign-up to the new arrangements – the new contract has the potential to bring significant benefits to both interpreters and the justice system as a whole.”
Last week the Shadow Justice Secretary, Sadiq Khan, wrote to the Justice Minister, Kenneth Clarke, expressing that there was wide concern over the Government’s decision to give all interpreting work to one firm. “Ensuring value for money in delivery of translation and interpretation services is clearly important, but this must not be to the detriment of the quality of the service in such a critical area of justice.”
Similarly, the Justice Spokesman for Labour, Andy Slaughter, said that the lack of interpreters could amount to a violation of the 1998 Human Rights Act. “There is a genuine risk of miscarriages of justice because of inadequate or unsuitable interpreting and translating service, and breaches of the right to a fair hearing under the Human Rights Act”.
The Ministry of Justice said that although the scheme needed to be improved it should stay in place. “The Ministry of Justice is working with Applied Language Solutions to closely monitor the operation of the new contract.
“The Government is determined to ensure that taxpayers get value for money across the whole of the justice system. This new contract will save at least £18m a year on the cost of interpretation and translation, a reduction of almost a third, but will ensure that high quality interpreters and translators are still available to those in need.”
Are you looking for expert legal advice? We can put you in touch with a specialist solicitor free of charge: