If you go to see a doctor in France, Germany and Poland, nobody will provide you with an interpreter. I was talking to my sister about this the other day. 

She lives in Italy and says if you go to a doctor there and you speak the language, fine. If not, well too bad. You communicate with your hands. The situation in Britain regarding translators must be unique.


I have been a Polish translator in England since 2008. When I started it was really, really busy. I would have three cases a day. I was working day and night. I have less work now, but I think that’s mainly because there are so many more interpreters.

In some ways it is surprising that more Poles than any other nationals require interpreters here. Most Polish nationals – specially the younger generation – learn English at college. 


Some hospitals or GP surgeries use telephone interpreters but from my experience it doesn’t really work. Take NHS cases. Patients sometimes want you to be there when they are given local anaesthetic. I’m next to the patient and the doctor with the scalpel, so sometimes you see things that could make you faint.


For me the most exciting projects are crown courts. A year ago we did quite a big murder trial in Carlisle – it lasted for a month and a half, lots of defendants. We had all those reports, pathologists’ reports, so this was very demanding stuff.


Whenever apologists for the failings of Capita TI appear before Parliamentary Committees, they always present the declining number of complaints as evidence that the contract is getting better and better. I've done some analysis of the published statistics, and it throws up some interesting figures. 

For example, if a linguist fails to attend an assignment, you'd imagine the booking clerk would be pretty angry and would almost certainly complain. Not so. In the last set of statistics covering the 2nd quarter of 2014, there were 227 instances of 'did not attend' but there were only 98 complaints, a complaint rate of 43%. The figures are even more striking when you consider instances of Capita being unable to supply a linguist. 1,780.instances of not being able to supply resulted in only 329 complaints, a rate of 18.5%. Combining these two examples, the rate for complaining has fallen steadily over the last year, from 33.5%in Q1 2013, to 21.3% in Q2 2014.

As time goes by, it is clear that court staff are becoming less willing to complain, even though they still have plenty to complain about. Why would this be? Two reasons spring to mind. Firstly, it is seen as a complete waste of time making a complaint because nothing will come of it. The MoJ has made it obvious that it backs Capita to the hilt and isn't prepared to do anything that would provoke Capita to walk away from the contract. Secondly, court staff don't want to jeopardize their careers by complaining about a contract that Handcock and Brennan hold so close to their hearts. We've already seen the MoJ threaten disciplinary action to prevent staff contributing to the Justice Select Committee forum. Who wants to stick their head above the parapet and be perceived as a 'whining winnie', when all it will achieve is push them to the front of the queue for redundancies?


Hello fellow linguists!

My name is Carla Avenia Koency, and I am currently finishing my MA in Conference Interpreting at the National University of Ireland - Galway. I will only get this much coveted degree once I finish my thesis, which I chose to do on the privatisation of court interpreting in the UK.

Some of you might have already heard of me because I was recruiting court interpreters for a questionnaire. That was the initial part of my research... Now I'm on the second part: a survey, one that will only take 10 minutes of your time (no writing required! just clicking!). 

I even made sure that it's extra convenient for you to fill out: you can even access it through your phone!

So, I please ask you to take a few minutes from your busy schedule to click through my questionnaire. It will help me, of course, but also remember that it helps me help you. The more of us there are out there writing about this topic in an academic context, the more attention it will get. Or at least, so I hope. 

Link to the questionnaire: http://questionpro.com/t/AK9EtZRQw3

Please share it with your colleagues! Don't be shy. 

And of course, if you have any questions, you can find me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Rearrange the phrase or saying that includes these words: ‘rings’, ‘round’ and ‘running’. As the subject, start with ‘Capita (and previously Applied Language Solutions (ALS))’. Insert the verb ‘are’ and conclude with ‘HM Courts & Tribunals Service (aka the Ministry of Justice)’. And there you have it.

The reputable interpreter associations have been producing irrefutable evidence about the dismal plummeting in standards ever since the ministry insisted on the framework agreement against all evidence and reasoned arguments.

In the face of all common sense, it awarded an enormous and unachievable contract to Gavin Wheeldon’s one-man-band ALS, which was promptly gobbled up as a tasty morsel by Capita. What has ensued has been delivery which is but a pale shadow of the earlier national agreement regime, which worked satisfactorily for years.


• We dispense the people's justice, but it isn't easy. Some who come before us speak other languages, so interpreters play an important role here. Therein lies a problem. Last year, MPs castigated the Ministry of Justice for its "shambolic" handling of the court translation contract, which was given to Capita. Interpreters failed to turn up, leading to the cancellation of trials, and others turned up but botched the job. Since then, the news has continued to be sorrowful. Last week it was said that the cost to the taxpayer of hiring court interpreters has almost doubled to £15.5m in just one year. The quality hardly seems to have risen in step, though ministers claim "dramatic improvements" with more work undertaken and big privatisation savings for the taxpayer. Tell that to the judge. One man, charged with perverting the course of justice was accused – via the interpreter – of being a "pervert".

• Funny until it isn't, and the president of the family division, Sir James Munby, has had enough. Last week, when attention was focused on the elections and Ukip, Ukip, Ukip, he raised a voice. Hats off to the law site suesspiciousminds for noticing. Munby presided over a custody case that required a Slovak interpreter. A "very sad case", he called it. The interpreter failed to show, and when he complained he learned truths so shocking that he detailed them in the judgment. He learned that Capita took the government's money to provide the interpreter, farmed out the work and could eschew liability if the translator didn't turn up. That if it had to cancel, it could do so as late as 2pm on the day before the hearing, at which point it would often be impossible to find a replacement. And that on the day of his ruined hearing, Capita had only 29 suitably qualified Slovak language interpreters when it needed 39 to meet its obligations. So much for the supremacy of the market.

• Takes a lot to make a top judge go public, but Munby didn't mince his words. "Whether the underlying causes are to be found in the nature of the contract between the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty's Courts translation services or whoever and Capita, or in the nature of the contract between Capita and the interpreters it retains, or in the sums paid respectively to Capita and its interpreters, or in an inadequate supply of interpreters (unlikely one might have thought in a language such as Slovak), I do not know. We need to find out." Something for Chris Grayling to crack on with, one would think. Wouldn't like to see him hauled before the beak.