Police interpreter was in pay of Vietnamese drugs gang
Police have issued an alert after an interpreter who worked in the justice system for 16 years was found to be in the pay of a drugs gang.
Kim Tran, 49, was exposed as she helped detectives after the arrest of a Vietnamese gang last year.
The gang ran one of the largest networks of cannabis farms found in Britain. It paid Tran about £500 to pass messages during prison visits and over the phone.
She also passed on a bogus birth certificate purporting to show that one suspect being held on remand was a 15-year-old child. The document was intended to give Thanh Thi Nguyen, 21, immunity from prosecution under the Modern Slavery Act, which offers a defence for under-18s who say they were trafficked.
Lancashire constabulary, which discovered Tran was corrupt after detectives became suspicious of her behaviour in interviews, has issued an alert to all forces that may have used her.
A jury heard how she asked for expensive meals out to be paid for by gang members. She was convicted this month at Burnley crown court of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Detective Sergeant Stuart Peall, head of the exploitation team at Lancashire police, said criminals were exploiting modern slavery laws.
“This interpreter tried to help them do that,” he said. “There was a big financial gain for Tran. Our evidence showed she was directing the gang members in a highly experienced way.
“Interpreters can be useful to criminals because they have unique access to our investigations. They can take part in a number of different interviews, so they will hear all the evidence. Sometimes police officers will talk about things in front of interpreters that they shouldn’t.”
In June, The Sunday Times revealed the abuse of protections for children built into modern slavery laws. Lancashire constabulary said that even middle-aged criminals are posing as children and being put in foster care while age assessments are carried out.
Before the assessments can be completed, the suspects often go missing, only to be discovered by police working at another cannabis farm.
Most police forces outsource the provision of language services. Before 2010, forces would use lists of trusted translators.
Alan Thompson, chairman of the Association of Police and Court Interpreters and a Spanish interpreter for the police for 30 years, said: “I believe cases like this are a direct result of the government policy of outsourcing interpreting services to save money.”
The judge warned Tran to expect a substantial prison sentence.