I would just like to personally salute all the Interpreters who are not accepting HMCTS & Police bookings that are requested by Capita.

I am a Kurdish (Sorani) Interpreter and recently I have been offered loads of bookings by Capita to attend HMCourt & Police bookings – which I have declined – and as a result, the Courts & Police have had no other choice but to use the NRPSI to offer me jobs, which I accept. Why not? The rates the NRPSI pay is what we deserve!

So basically if all the Kurdish (Sorani), and other language, Interpreters decline bookings requested by Capita, the Courts/Police will have to use the NRPSI to offer us bookings and pay us the rates we deserve, from all the hard work we have done to achieve the interpreting qualifications. Furthermore, due to Capita downgrading most Tier 2 interpreters, to Tier 3, they won’t be able to take our jobs – only in very small circumstances when the Judge approves the use of a Tier 3 interpreter; but like I said, this happens rarely.

As I said, I salute all the Interpreters who are boycotting Capita, and for you to keep on doing it because as you can see, it is already happening and it’s working, we just need more Interpreters on board to make this a reality everyday, so we get bookings directly via the NRPSI - which I am, thankfuly, getting more regularly.

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The courts and access to justice (Page 10)

In the year under review the House of Commons Justice Committee (JC) accused the Ministry of Justice of contempt of parliament in its handling of an enquiry into the contract for court translation and interpretation services in England and Wales. Plans to reform judicial review and legal aid prompted claims by over 100 leading lawyers, including a former Attorney General and a former Director of Public Prosecutions, that they would ‘seriously undermine the rule of law, and Britain’s global reputation for justice’. 

Criminal legal aid reforms across the United Kingdom, and the disastrous court translation contract in England and Wales, are the main developments covered in this section. The reason for exploring the former should be fairly clear. Access to representation via legal aid, as the Justice Secretary wrote in his Foreword to the government’s controversial proposals, ‘goes to the heart of a civilised society, and underpins access to justice’ (Ministry of Justice, 2013a). The proposed changes threw into sharp relief important questions about what access to justice meant in practice.

The court translation contract, in contrast, might appear rather technical, arcane even. Its significance for Justice Policy Review comes less from the controversy that it stirred up and more from what it illustrates about the coalition’s approach to the delivery of a key justice service. The Context and overview section in this issue highlights the importance the coalition attaches to reforming the public sector and growing the private sector. The court translation contract is a good example of this dual priority in action.

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English is spoken by 95% of the population in the United Kingdom. Welsh is the  official language of Wales. However, in the 2011 National Census over 20% of the population listed a language other than English as their first language. Up to 153 languages have been reported in some urban areas, and over 300,000 people living in the U.K. report that they do not speak English at all. Consequently, much has been done to address the needs of this linguistically diverse population. As regards public service interpreting, certification does exist although there is no statutory protection of title for interpreters, i.e. there is no legal impediment to any person trading as an interpreter (or translator), irrespective of whether they are qualified or registered. Judges do not require only qualified LIs to be used, although they might express a preference for one.

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So, according to the Cambridge News, in one year, Cambridgeshire Police managed to reduce its monthly 'translation' bill for Romanian and Bulgarian from £1,366.94 in January 2013 to £0 in January 2014. However, the word 'translation' here must refer to 'written translation' not '[verbal] translation' or 'interpreting'. This is proved by the fact that, although January 2014 might have been a very quiet month for interpreters in Cambridgeshire, there were nevertheless interpreting assignments for which - obviously - interpreters were paid more than £0. Furthermore, amongst police forces, written translations make up only a small part of the overall expenditure on interpreting and translation. This is obvious from the minute expenditure on Bulgarian 'written translations' in January 2013, namely £9.10, a sum, incidentally, so meagre as to be below any reasonable minimum charge. In other words 'not very much expenditure' in January 2013, has been reduced to 'nil' in January 2014.

This is good news for Cambridge MP Julian Huppert who has a gift for stating the obvious. He notes that 'these statistics [show] that Cambridgeshire Police have not had to employ the services of Bulgarian & Romanian translators very often'. However the MP soon slides into a generalisation about the costs of 'translation services'. He observes that that 'over the last year' there were few demands on the Police budget 'for translation services'. He seems to think that the statistics arising from a comparison between one January and another involving only two languages can be extrapolated across all languages over an entire year. Huppert seems anxious to assure the folk of Cambridgeshire that far from there being a sudden influx of Balkan peoples in January 2014, the whole of the preceding year had itself been a very quiet one for immigration in general. In Huppert's world, all has been well for Cambridgeshire tax payers for some time. But it is entirely possible that other languages such as Polish & Lithuanian were all-too-much in demand in 2013, especially as those nationalities could enter the UK free from the restrictions imposed on Romanians and Bulgarians.

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A translator and human rights activist analyses the ongoing issues thrown up by the privatisation of court interpreting services by the Ministry of Justice.

Next year marks the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, arguably one of the most important legal documents in the world, guaranteeing the right to a fair trial. That right is also ensured under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which includes the minimum right of a defendant ‘to be informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him’ and ‘to have the free assistance of an interpreter if he cannot understand or speak the language used in court.’ The right to interpretation also applies to complainants. These fair trial rights are now under threat in various ways in modern Britain, particularly through plans to privatise legal aid services and the privatisation of court interpreting services, the privatisation framework agreement for which became operational on 30 January 2012.

The framework agreement replaced a system governed by a National Agreement whereby interpreters, who are largely self-employed and work independently, are selected from the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI), the UK’s independent voluntary regulator for the interpreting profession (formed in 1994). This system, introduced following a number of miscarriages of justice related to a failure to appreciate the language needs of criminal justice system users, functioned adequately until the beginning of this decade. But in August 2011, following a public procurement procedure, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) signed a five-year, £90 million contract with a small private language service provider called Applied Language Services (ALS). Before the contract went live six months later, ALS was acquired by Capita, a private company notorious for its large stake in the public sector and its ability to both secure and mismanage public contracts. Both the MoJ and ALS deny that they knew at the time of signing the contract of the imminent acquisition of ALS by Capita.

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