31 May 2012 by Catherine Baksi
'Self-serving' interpreter figures slammed
The shadow justice minister has criticised as ‘self-serving’ performance data released on the company contracted to provide court interpreters. The data, published by the Ministry of Justice last week, revealed that hundreds of cases were still being disrupted by a shortage of interpreters three months into the contract.
Applied Language Solutions (ALS) took over the provision of interpreters to courts in February under a contract which aims to cut costs by a third. Members of several groups representing professional interpreters are refusing to work with the Capita-owned company.
The performance data reveal that from 30 January to 30 April ALS provided an interpreter in 81% of the cases where courts requested one. Its performance target was 98%. There were 26,059 requests for interpreters at courts and tribunals in England and Wales, covering 142 languages in the period.
Overall ‘fulfilment’ rate for requests increased from 65% in February to 90% in April, with success rates varying between 58-95% for the 20 most requested languages.
The figures were given to the MoJ by ALS, and verified by ‘spot checks’ carried out by the courts service, the MoJ said.
Andy Slaughter said this week that the figures were ‘substantially self-serving’. Even so, he added, they indicate ‘meltdown’ from day one, and show that hundreds of hearings are still being disrupted. He said the figures failed to quantify knock-on costs of the failures to provide interpreters: ‘In some incidences, where people have been detained unnecessarily in custody overnight or where Crown court trials have been adjourned, those costs could run into thousands of pounds.’
An MoJ spokesman said: ‘We have seen a significant and sustained improvement in performance. We continue to monitor the improvement on a daily basis.’