Tory minister admits new court interpreter system is ‘unacceptable’

The parliamentary under-secretary of state for prisons and youth justice has admitted that the Government’s new court interpreter system is “unacceptable”.


Tory MP Crispin Blunt
Tory MP Crispin Blunt

Tory MP Crispin Blunt told the House of Commons earlier this week that there have been “an unacceptable number of problems in the first two weeks of full implementation of the contract”.

Since the implementation of the new system on 30 January, there has been widespread criticism over the large number of unnecessary delays and instances where interpreters were late, underprepared, underqualified or failed to turn up at all (16 February 2012).

Under the new system, court interpreters are now sourced from one single agency, Applied Language Solutions (ALS), rather than selected from the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI).

The contract with ALS is set to save the Government £18m a year, but the MoJ was forced to rapidly backpedal after facing mounting criticism over the inadequacies of the new system (23 February 2012). As an interim measure, courts have now been told that they can make their own arrangements for the time being while the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) tries to iron out the problems.

An estimated 60 per cent of the 2,300 interpreters on the NRPSI are still refusing to work for ALS and there has been a number of protests against the new system, including demonstrations outside courts in Manchester and Bradford.

As The Lawyer revealed, an email sent from ALS chairman Gavin Wheeldon to the Professional Interpreters Alliance indicates that the agency has made a number of changes to its payment rates (23 February 2012).

A spokesman from MoJ said that it is continuing to work with ALS to monitor the operation of the new contract.