The decision to award a Government contract for court interpreting services to a company called Applied Language Solutions has been strongly criticised.
Worth an estimated £90 million over 5 years, the contract provides interpreters at courts throughout the country including Magistrates and Crown Courts. However, since its implementation in January of this year, there have been numerous criticisms of both the availability of interpreters and the quality of the service provided. During the first six months more than 5000 complaints were made by Court staff and a significant number of court cases had to be adjourned as a result of problems with the availability of interpreters.
Reporting on the decision of the Ministry of Justice to award the contract to Applied Language Solutions, the National Audit Office have made significant criticisms. The report describes the initial performance of the contract as “wholly inadequate” and says that insufficient weight was given to the concerns and dissatisfaction expressed by many interpreters. Commenting on the report Margaret Hodge MP, Chair of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, stated that the new system led to “courtroom chaos”. She continued “…the resulting delays and hearing cancellations caused distress for victims, defendants and witnesses, additional costs to the taxpayer and damage to the reputation of the justice system.”
Whilst it is claimed that performance is improving, the National Audit Office have made a number of recommendations. These include the checking of qualifications and criminal records clearance of interpreters and the carrying out of an independent assessment as to whether the contract’s quality standards are adequate.