House of Commons Justice Committee: Written evidence from the Society of Official Metropolitan Interpreters UK Ltd

April 14th, 2013

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmjust/645/645vw23.htm

Justice Committee
Written evidence from the Society of Official Metropolitan Interpreters UK Ltd

I am writing on behalf of the Society of Official Metropolitan Interpreters UK Ltd (SOMI UK). Please consider our submissions below in conjunction with the Joint Submissions of which we are a party.

All our members are official Metropolitan Police interpreters. Under the National Agreement on the use of Interpreters in the Criminal Justice System (NA)1, we are required to be on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI)2 or the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP)3. We are vetted to CTC level or above by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). We are all professional interpreters with academic qualifications and proven experience of interpreting within the criminal and civil justice systems.

The comments below especially address one specific area that the Justice Committee is seeking to explore:

1. The Rationale for Changing Arrangements for the Provision of Interpreter Services

1. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has signed a contract under a Framework Agreement (FWA) with Applied Language Services (ALS). The new system came into effect on 30 January 2012 and is now being used in all the courts in England and Wales (criminal, civil and family courts, tribunals and prisons) and in some Constabularies.

2. The Society of Official Metropolitan Interpreters UK Ltd made submissions4 regarding the MoJ’s proposals for the provision of interpretation and translation services across the justice sector dated 30 March 2011, in a letter to Richard Mason, Head of Better Trials Unit of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) dated 4 May 2011.

3. Our main contention was that quality standards, achieved over the past two decades, and the interests of justice would be compromised. We made it clear that we were extremely concerned about the implications and the impact the outsourcing to a single self-regulating commercial agency would have on the future of Public Service Interpreting and emphasised that the existing recognised qualifications and independent regulation were essential elements of the profession. It now appears that our concerns were fully justified.

4. Certainly, the MoJ’s considerations and advice to the Minister have ignored the interpreting profession’s widespread concerns and opposition to the Framework Agreement from the very beginning, and the result of its implementation has been the ensuing chaos in the Courts and some Constabularies as ALS has continuously struggled to supply reliable interpreters for assignments across the country.

5. This is evidenced in the stream of national and international articles published in the media since 30 January 2012 (see RPSI Linguist Lounge and Collected News Reports 5). Even Justice Minister Crispin Blunt has been forced to admit from the outset that implementation of the contract has caused “unacceptable disruption” (The Times, 24 February 20126) and Justice Minister Lord McNally has recently confirmed that “it is unlikely to achieve any savings in its first year” (House of Lords, 9 July 20127).

6. In the debate in the House of Lords on 9 July Lady Butler-Sloss, a retired judge, asked Lord McNally: “Are you aware of the extent of disruption and delay to criminal trials as a result of serious inaccuracies of court interpreting, which is not only leading to very considerable cost but also concerns have been raised by judges across the country, particularly in London, in Birmingham and in Leeds?” Lord McNally did not deny this.

7. ALS has been unable to recruit qualified and experienced interpreters in sufficient numbers, leading to inadequate quality of the service offered, added to poor management and accountability. This resulted in numerous hearings being adjourned or severely delayed, with some defendants being returned into custody at a great cost. In other hearings poor quality interpreting was in evidence leading to delays and collapsed trials, again at great expense to the taxpayer.

8. The National Agreement (NA)1 was introduced to address concerns raised by Lord Runciman with regards to the difficulty of obtaining good quality interpreters in his Report to the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice in July 1993, and Lord Justice Auld’s Review of Criminal Justice in 20018. The NA is a safeguard to basic human rights and was put in place following the recommendations of Lord Justice Auld in order to ensure the right to a fair trial. In 2006 a Home Office Circular reinforced the importance of the NA and the quality of interpreting services, and subsequent amendments were made to strengthen it, ensuring only registered and qualified interpreters could practise in the Criminal Justice System.

9. The MoJ intends to withdraw the NA. This is counterproductive and not in the interest of justice. An essential pre-requisite to achieving justice is reliable communication provided by qualified legal interpreters and translators.

10. Under the previous arrangements, interpreters used in criminal proceedings were primarily drawn from the NRPSI2 and the CACDP3, which ensured interpreters’ competence, reliability, accountability and security vetting by independently verifying their credentials and qualifications. These interpreters are bound by more stringent and robust codes of practice and conduct than those proposed in the Framework Agreement.

11. Re-combining the regulatory function with commercial provision has been a retrograde step, effectively reversing the progress achieved over the past two decades. This is particularly so given that the NRPSI has recently re-organised itself as an independent body to regulate the profession in the public interest and can be accessed free of charge.

12. Under the FWA, a professional qualification (which includes both oral interpreting and written translation) is no longer an essential requirement to interpret at court and in the CJS. This may have legal implications or consequences if the interpreting or translation is ever used as evidence or called into question in legal proceedings.

13. ALS introduced a system of unaccredited assessments and a tier system of qualifications and payment, which constitute a lowering of the quality and standard required for interpreting in the Criminal Justice System. The “ALS assessment”9 designed at Middlesex University was explicitly NOT intended to mimic or replace the DPSI examination, but delivered solely as an in-service performance check, providing only a diagnostic check (not a pass or fail result).

14. The requirement for fully qualified interpreters to undertake an additional unaccredited assessment of their skills constitutes a de facto de-recognition of the existing qualifications and the experience and expertise of interpreters. Many interpreters on the NRPSI hold MA degrees in interpreting and translation, a Diploma in Public Service Interpreting qualification (accredited at NVQ level 6 by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree with honours), a Diploma in Translation (accredited at level 7 and equivalent to a Masters degree) and also the Met Test, designed especially for police work. Learning at this level involves the achievement of a high level of professional knowledge. Further, most are active practising interpreters and have years of proven experience behind us (with many working over 1000 hours per year in public service), which cannot be undervalued.

15. The vast majority of our qualified public service colleagues have not and will not register with ALS and they are also refusing requests from court officials who have been given permission by the MoJ to revert to the NRPSI, as this is only a temporary measure designed to prop up the FWA and its contractor.

16. A significant reduction in terms and conditions is also a major disincentive and is not by any means sufficient to attract and retain qualified, experienced interpreters. Contrary to unfounded claims from Justice Minister Crispin Blunt that interpreters earned six figure salaries, a recent survey10 conducted in 2010 by the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIoL) and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) found that the average public service interpreter earnings are £15,700. When one adds in the additional disincentives of no pension, holiday pay or sick pay, as well as no job security, it is unthinkable to assume that the rates of pay and costs are suitable. It is implicit that the service is going to deteriorate because of the quality of interpreters who will work at these rates.

17. Professional interpreters are simply not prepared to work for the terms and conditions on offer. There is a strong movement within the legal interpreting community to keep the NA and the NRPSI to maintain quality and standards, against the cut-price employment terms imposed by the FWA.

18. Other interpreters are simply moving away from public service interpreting, which means a further reduction in the pool of qualified interpreters. They have lost all confidence in the continued recognition and protection of the interpreter in this outsourcing to a commercial agency whose main aim will always be to increase their own profits.

19. Interpreters, the organisations representing them, and other professionals in Criminal Justice are also fearful of the consequences for Equal Access to Justice and Fair Trial for non-English speakers11, which may be put at risk if quality legal interpreting or translation is not provided. There are inherent dangers to the delivery of justice that can arise out of inadequate interpreting or complete failure to supply an interpreter at all. The potential cost due to failed prosecutions and appeals also cannot be underestimated.

20. It is often the victims that are overlooked in this and they too will suffer if the standards are dropped and quality is sacrificed for profit.

21. The Ministry of Justice should seek to provide services efficiently and effectively, but trying to improve a functioning service requires continuous consultation with the service providers involved; namely the professional legal interpreters and their representative bodies. The system worked well before, with problems only seldom occurring.

22. We maintain that there could be more savings in the long term by investing in the establishment of a central government agency, which is “not for profit” and therefore does not seek to gain a pecuniary advantage from interpreters’ work. This may achieve a streamlining of the system and thereby utilise interpreter services in a more organised and efficient way—dealing with the process of identifying and booking individual interpreters, as well as with the payment process. For example, the Metropolitan Police has achieved savings12 by reorganising the way they use their own interpreters’ list without the need to resort to outsourcing.

23. Qualified professional interpreters are an essential resource which ensures that justice and human rights are upheld. The introduction of outsourcing and the tier system by the Ministry of Justice has compromised the quality of service provided, which is resulting in costly delays, collapsed trials and may lead to miscarriages of justice.

24. We, public service interpreters and representative organisations, are the only practitioners and experts in our field and by not engaging with us the MoJ is depriving itself from the expertise and professional advice we interpreters can give. It is therefore in the interest of justice that the MoJ sets up an Interpreters Working Group involving the Criminal Justice System and interpreters in order to address all matters of concern.

25. We wish to engage directly with the Ministry of Justice in order to find solutions to improve efficiency and cost, whilst still maintaining standards of service.

26. Seven professional interpreters’ organisations, representing 2,350 registered public service interpreters in 101 languages, and the profession’s regulatory body NRPSI are united in the Professional Interpreters for Justice Campaign13. We have written a joint letter to Crispin Blunt MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice which was not replied to. The MoJ has thus far chosen to ignore our requests for engagement and dialogue14.

27. Legal interpreters and translators require protection of title and the status; the obligations and rights of legal interpreters and translators should be defined in law to ensure the highest standards of service.

Yours sincerely,

Klasiena Slaney
Company Secretary
For and on behalf of SOMI UK Ltd

August 2012

Specific Links for Further Information

1. National Agreement on the Use of Interpreters (NA).

2. National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI).

3. Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP).

4. The Society of Official Metropolitan Interpreters UK Ltd submissions re MoJ’s proposals for the provision of interpretation and translation services across the justice sector dated 30 March 2011.

5. RPSI Linguist Lounge and Collected News Reports.

6. The Times, Friday 24 February 2012, http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/article3330180.ece

7. Parliament, 9 July 2012 House of Lords debate EU: Interpretation and Translation in Criminal Proceedings.

8. In 2001 Lord Justice Auld made recommendations in respect of interpreting provisions. Auld Recommendations (paras 276–286, pages 63–64).

9. The “ALS assessment” designed at Middlesex University.

10. Interpreter Rates and Salaries Survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIoL) and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI).

11. Equal Access to Justice and Fair Trial for non-English speakers.

12. MPS FOI, September 2011, Expenditure on Interpreters and Translators for the past seven years. Metropolitan Police Service opted out of the Framework Agreement.

13. Professional Interpreters for Justice Campaign.

14. Interpreter bodies’ joint letter to Crispin Blunt, MP.

©Parliamentary copyright

Prepared 5th February 2013

Professional Interpreters for Justice campaign

June 3rd, 2012

Professional Interpreters for Justice (PI4J)

Ten professional interpreters’ organisations, including the profession’s regulatory body National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI), representing 2,350 registered public service interpreters in 101 languages, are united in the Professional Interpreters for Justice campaign.

The campaign’s three aims are to:
• Reverse the outsourcing to Applied Language Solutions (ALS) or other commercial agencies, and the reintroduction of direct employment of freelance interpreters by the courts and police services
• Establish regular dialogue between interpreter organisations and government
• Persuade government to provide statutory regulation of the interpreting profession and protection of the title of Legal Interpreter.

The organisations which are partners in the campaign are:
• APCI – Association of Police and Court Interpreters
• CIOL – The Chartered Institute of Linguists
• ITI – Institute of Translation and Interpreting
• NRPSI – National Register of Public Service Interpreters
• PIA – Professional Interpreters’ Alliance
• NUPIT – National Union of Professional Interpreters and Translators, part of Unite the union
• SOMI – Society of Official Metropolitan Interpreters UK
• SPSI – Society for Professional Public Service Interpreting

The Wales Interpretation and Translation Service (WITS) and the Scottish Interpreters and Translators Association (SITA) are also associated organisations. The campaign steering group meetings are hosted by Unite the union.

RPSI Linguist Lounge

May 13th, 2012

RPSI Linguist Lounge is a not-for-profit website run by registered public service interpreters (RPSIs) for registered public service interpreters. Here we share the latest news and other information related to our profession.

Please also visit our Facebook page where we post stories and articles which do not necessarily get published here.

This website was launched in 2012 after the court interpreting service in England and Wales was outsourced to ALS, now owned by Capita plc. The name of the site, RPSI Linguist Lounge, was chosen on the analogy with Linguist Lounge, the web portal ALS launched for their linguists. In August 2013 Capita changed the name of their Linguist Lounge to “Capita Linguist Portal”.

The Lawyer: Lawyers slam Government’s new court interpreting system

February 27th, 2012

http://www.thelawyer.com/lawyers-slam-government%E2%80%99s-new-court-interpreting-system/1011420.article

Lawyers slam Government’s new court interpreting system
16 February 2012 | By Ruth Green

As recent changes to the provision of interpreters for court hearings are set to save the Government £18m a year, many are concerned that the new system is leading to severe delays and costing more money.

On 30 January 2012, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) launched a new interpreter service, which has already been implemented in courts across England and Wales. The changes mean that court interpreters will now be sourced from one single agency, Applied Language Solutions (ALS).

Court interpreters were previously selected by the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI). Interpreters listed on the NRPSI are accredited to work in specialist areas of the public services, such as law, healthcare or local government-related services.

ALS has introduced a tier system of qualifications and payment that has brought interpreters’ pay down to a fee of £22, £20 and £16 per hour with no travel expenses. Only interpreters assigned on the top tier jobs are required to be fully qualified. Interpreters under the new system are now also only paid for the time actually spent in the courtroom.

ALS reportedly has 3,000 interpreters on its books, but there are widespread concerns over the quality of the interpreters they are now providing to courts. They will be selected under a new system devised by ALS in partnership with Middlesex University, which is reportedly undertaking independent assessments to gauge whether interpreters are qualified to interpret in court.

Currently some 60 per cent of the 2,300 interpreters from the NRPSI are refusing to work under the conditions of the new system. As a result, a large number of lawyers and judges have reported instances where interpreters were late, underprepared, under qualified or failed to turn up at all. In one instance, an interpreter was spotted texting on their mobile phone during a court hearing.

While a spokeswoman from ALS admitted that there have been some “teething problems” so far, many lawyers believe that the changes are jeopardising the justice system.

Jacqueline Ng, a duty solicitor at Hines Solicitor who deals with a large number of cases in Polish, has noticed considerable problems across the profession since the implementation of the new system.

“There’s been a lot of unnecessary delay and expense with many interpreters not turning up and trials having to be adjourned,” she said. “Many of the interpreters that have come are not registered and don’t understand legal jargon. The changes are having a big impact on how defendants are being treated and I don’t think it’s right to mess with people’s human rights and liberty in this way.”

Fadi Daoud, a partner at Lawrence & Co Solicitors, specialises in extradition hearings and highlights how vital it is to have qualified interpreters in the courtroom.

“I work in a very specialised area, so the interpreters I work with need particular knowledge of the subject matter and need to know specific vocabulary,” he said. “If interpreters don’t understand the context of a case, then there’s no way they will be able to translate it.”

Daoud believes that the Government’s decision to outsource and centralise the system for appointing interpreters has been ill-conceived.

“The Government seems to believe that centralising services automatically results in better outcomes. This is just not the case,” he explained. “There are no minimum standards now and there’s a centralised system that doesn’t help anyone at all.”

Daoud, who is a native Arabic speaker, was forced to interpret during a recent hearing as the assigned interpreter failed to show up. Many of his clients require interpreters who speak Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Romanian, Albanian, Arabic or Kurdish.

Dhaneshwar Sharma of Sharma Law Solicitors has experienced instances where court hearings have had to be adjourned as many as three times.

“The whole system is a mess, it’s unfair on detainees and the delays are no doubt adding to the public purse,” he said. “For a trial to be adjourned once, twice and maybe even three times, is just absurd. This should be cost-cutting for efficiency, but this shouldn’t mean deficiency.”

Sharma represents a number of Eastern European clients and has a good understanding of Romanian. In a recent case he noticed that the interpreter provided to interpret Romanian into English did not seem to be following the case correctly.

For many lawyers, their clients have been in the country for perhaps a matter of months and therefore do not have the linguistic skills to understand a trial nor the accusations against them without the assistance of an interpreter. Consequently, by failing to successfully provide an interpreter to represent such clients, ALS runs the risk of violating Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (28 April 1998 http://www.thelawyer.com/when-words-mean-everything/90650.article).

One lawyer reported that, after an interpreter failed to turn up three times for a case, the presiding judge suggested that the court should make a wasted costs order against ALS.

A spokeswoman for ALS said that the changes have been designed to make the system more efficient.

“We’re closely monitoring the service, will investigate any complaints made about the system and make changes and improvements as necessary,” she added.

Commenting on the selection process for interpreters under the new system, the MoJ said: “All interpreters are required to undertake continuous professional development and abide by a comprehensive Code of Conduct, which further emphasises that they should only undertake assignments which they’re competent to undertake.”

However, this is not the first time that problems have been reported about the Government’s efforts to outsource interpreting services to ALS.

In March 2011, the Manchester Evening News reported that interpreter schemes between ALS and police in Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria, collapsed after hundreds of interpreters refused to work for ALS and set up a group called the Professional Interpreters’ Alliance. The group applied for a judicial review of the ALS contracts with the various police forces.

However, the deals were scrapped before the review even took place when the Greater Manchester Police admitted breach of the Race Relations Act and signed a consent order at the end of February 2011.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police, Cambridgeshire Police and police in South Wales are all believed to have made considerable savings to their interpreter systems in recent years without the need to resort to outsourcing.

Klasiena Slaney, an interpreter and the director and company secretary of the Society of Official Metropolitan Interpreters, commented: “Qualified professional interpreters are experts in their field and are an essential resource which ensures that justice and human rights are upheld. The introduction of outsourcing and the tier system by the Ministry of Justice will compromise the quality of service provided, which is resulting in costly delays and may lead to miscarriages of justice. We wish to engage directly with the Ministry of Justice in order to find solutions to improve efficiency and cost, whilst still maintaining standards of service.”

A MoJ spokesperson said: “This is just one of a number of common sense changes we’re implementing across the justice system to make it more efficient and effective, including digitisation of the courts, greater transparency and expanding the use of virtual courts.”

SOMI’s submissions re: MoJ Proposals for the provision of interpretation and translation services across the justice sector dated 30 March 2011

February 27th, 2012

Richard Mason
Head of Better Trials Unit
Ministry of Justice

By email: interpretationproject@justice.gsi.gov.uk

4 May 2011

Dear Mr Mason,

Re: MoJ Proposals for the provision of interpretation and translation services across the justice sector dated 30 March 2011

Thank you for your invitation to present our views on the proposed arrangements and the contents of the documents attached. Please consider our submissions below in conjunction with the Joint Submissions of which we are a party.

All members of the Society of Official Metropolitan Interpreters UK Ltd (SOMI UK) are official Metropolitan Police interpreters. Under the National Agreement, we are required to be on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) or the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP). We are vetted to CTC level or above by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). We are all professional interpreters with academic qualifications and proven experience of interpreting within the criminal and civil justice systems.

1. We wish to work together with the Ministry of Justice to make the system work in a viable and cost effective manner. However, we do not believe that the MoJ will achieve its aim of improving the existing arrangements for the provision of interpretation and translation services across the justice sector by simply outsourcing to a single commercial agency, even if allowing for sub-contracting. It is our contention that quality standards and the interests of justice will be compromised if the reforms as proposed by the Interpretation Project go ahead.

2. We, public service interpreters and representative organisations, are the only practitioners and experts in our field and by not engaging regularly with us instead of this ad hoc basis, the MoJ is depriving itself from the expertise and professional advice we interpreters can give. It is therefore in the interest of justice that the MoJ sets up an Interpreters Working Group involving the Criminal Justice System and interpreters in order to address all matters of concern.

3. We find it counterproductive and not in the interest of justice to withdraw the National Agreement on the use of Interpreters in the Criminal Justice System, which is a safeguard to basic human rights and was put in place following the recommendations of Lord Justice Auld in order to ensure the right to a fair trial. It states that it is essential ‘that interpreters used in criminal proceedings should be competent to meet ECHR obligations. To that end, the standard is that every interpreter/LSP working in courts and police stations should be registered with one of the recommended registers, i.e. the NRPSI at full or interim status (with Law Option) for non-English spoken languages, and, as full members, with CACDP for communicating with D/Deaf people’. It further states that ‘registration with one of the registers provides a number of important safeguards as to interpreters’ competence, reliability and security vetting.’

4. These proposals will undermine standards in public service interpreting achieved over the past decade and the existence of a recognised pool of qualified, registered and vetted professional interpreters will be undone. By outsourcing the provision of interpretation and translation services in the manner proposed, the MoJ is passing on the regulatory functions of the NRPSI to agencies, which is unacceptable. The NRPSI has now been reconstituted as an independent professional regulator in the interest of the public. All interpreters on the NRPSI have to satisfy the entry criteria in terms of qualifications and experience, they are subject to a Code of Professional Conduct, any alleged breaches of the Code are investigated by an independent Board and there is a formal complaints procedure.

5. Since the recent reform of the NRPSI on 1 April 2011, there has been no cost incurred by the service providers to access it, as it is paid for by the interpreters themselves.

6. The DPSI, the CCI (forerunner to DPSI) and the Met Police Test should continue to be the benchmark qualifications and we do not see any academic or legitimate reason, nor have you provided any, in order to substitute these existing well considered and properly designed qualifications.

7. We are extremely concerned by the fact that we were not engaged in the consideration process of the proposed tier system, which inherently suggests that some parts of the criminal justice system do not deserve fully qualified interpreters. This is particularly true for tiers 2 and 3, which definitely constitute lowering of the quality and standard. They must be scrapped at once as they sanction the use of under qualified interpreters which is contrary to the stated aim in your letter of the 9 August 2010 and in the current proposed Framework Agreement. Bilinguals of varying ability levels who are not yet qualified for public service interpreting should not be considered suitable to interpret in the Criminal Justice System.

8. Using less qualified interpreters will slow down procedures and may lead to miscarriages of justice and consequent appeals at great expense to the taxpayer and so will not lead to a cost-saving result after all. There are many cases that initially appear minor but may develop into something very serious where experienced, highly qualified professionals are required.

9. To develop an indiscriminate wider pool of interpreters, which would be a consequence of this exercise, would only reduce the existing pool of public service interpreters as there will be less work available for them, forcing them to look for alternatives. This is already happening in places where there is a saturation of the market in common languages. The aim of having all languages available within a 25 miles distance of a location in 95% of outcomes is highly impractical and unnecessary.

10. We are also profoundly alarmed about the consequences to our livelihood if there is to be a withdrawal of the standardised Terms & Conditions, which form part of the National Agreement and at present determine the rates paid by HMCTS and CPS. Instead there would be a reliance on the supplier ‘to ensure rates of pay would be sufficient to attract and retain linguists with the appropriate standards, which would be offering reasonable remuneration at market value’, leaving terms and conditions to be a matter for agreement between the contractor and the interpreter. This effectively creates a notion of reverse auction, as there will be no guarantee of a minimum payment for attendance, travel time and the reimbursement of expenses to make it economically worthwhile for interpreters. We are aware that many of our qualified public service colleagues, with years of professional experience, have already decided to move away from public service interpreting as they are losing all confidence in the continued recognition and protection of the interpreter in this proposed outsourcing to a commercial agency whose main aim will always be to increase their own profits.

11. There could be more saving in the long term by investing in the establishment of a central government agency, which is ‘not for profit’ and therefore does not seek to gain a pecuniary advantage from interpreters’ work. This may achieve a streamlining of the system and thereby utilise interpreter services in a more organised way – dealing as you mention with the process of identifying and booking individual interpreters in a more efficient way, for example by not sending interpreters of the same language to the same court when fewer can be used and by reducing unnecessary waiting times, as well as to deal with the payment process. For example, the Metropolitan Police has in fact achieved savings by reorganising the way they use their own interpreters’ list without the need to resort to outsourcing.

12. We categorically oppose the requirement for fully qualified interpreters to undertake an additional initial assessment and subsequent annual appraisal and revalidation of their skills, unless there is a new national law requiring all professionals and graduates, including all staff of the Ministry of Justice, to submit to annual confirmation of their degrees and qualifications. Such a requirement implies disregard for the existing qualifications and for the experience and expertise of interpreters. Many interpreters on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters hold MA degrees in interpreting and translation, a DPSI qualification (accredited at NVQ level 6 by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority and equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree with honours), a Diploma in Translation (accredited at level 7 and equivalent to a Masters degree) and also the Met Test, designed especially for police work. Learning at this level involves the achievement of a high level of professional knowledge. Further, most of us are active practising interpreters and have years of proven experience behind us (with many working over 1000 hours per year in public service), which cannot be undervalued.

13. We agree that a continuous professional development programme for all interpreters and translators including, where appropriate, justice specific training provision would be very helpful. In some countries this is made a requirement to continue working in the field and we do not oppose this, in fact, we fully welcome it.

14. All our members are bound by and adhere to SOMI’s Code of Practice, the NRPSI’s Code of Conduct and the Metropolitan Police Guidelines, which include its Code of Ethics. By continuing to make registration on the NRPSI compulsory for all interpreters working in the CJS, we are held accountable for any breaches.

15. Annual appraisal and revalidation must not be monopolised by one agency, this can be achieved by putting different mechanisms in place, such as feedback from the work providers, who should be made fully aware of the Code of Conduct that NRPSI interpreters have to follow.

Further points arising from the documents supplied by the MoJ

Document 1

1. Since suppliers and sub-contractors will have direct access to details of interpreters and the cases they are involved in, we are keen to know to what security vetting levels the suppliers and their staff are cleared?

2. What contractual terms and conditions do they have to comply with in order to safeguard our data? We are extremely concerned that this, although briefly raised in the joint response submitted on 15 September 2010, is not being even mentioned.

3. There is no mention of who will vet interpreters and suppliers’ staff and who will keep such data?

4. We would like to know how, under the proposed arrangements, will interpreters’ data, which will include confidential details of our income, cases we are involved in and any other details, be safely archived? We are not aware if there is a secure/safe archiving/retrieval system with controlled access to authorised persons only. It is not mentioned what measures and mechanisms are there to safeguard and protect our data from hacking and/or unauthorised access in future.

5. The proposed complaint system, contained in the 9th bullet point, seems to be only imposed for complaints against interpreters and there is nothing to suggest dealing with complaints from interpreters. We deem this to be discriminatory and recommend that the same robust, fair and auditable procedures must also manage complaints initiated by interpreters.

6. The right on the part of collaborative partners, stated in the 10th bullet point, is ambiguous and seems, on the face of it, to be unfair and oppressive. It is, therefore, important that this point be explained in some detail.

7. Although obtaining general feedback from non-English speakers, as mentioned in the 11th bullet point, sounds a good idea; experience tells us that this could prove problematic and controversial. Hence, this needs proper consultation with interpreters as it can be misleading and lead to misunderstanding which could seriously undermine the legal process.

Document 2

Quality Standards
Allocation of assignments:

This is a large area with many overlaps and it needs to be carefully considered by all parties concerned including interpreters. We do not find any rational or educational reason for introducing the tier system or substituting the current qualifications other than to legitimise the takeover bid for the benefit of commercial intermediaries. However we note the following:

1. The tier allocation of assignments seems to be based on the assumption that linguistic challenge is proportionate with the seriousness of a case. This is not always true for linguistic challenge would normally depend on the subject matter and not on the offence committed.

2. It is our professional advice that tier one qualifications must be set as the minimum requirement otherwise this would mean reduction in quality.

3. We cannot possibly endorse tiers two and three as acceptable interpreting qualifications; Bi-Lingual Skills Certificate for example is by definition not suitable for interpreting.

4. Whilst we wholly reject the tier system, we are intrigued to know if this would attract different rates of pay.

5. If there is disparity of pay, experience tells us that authorities and agencies tend to favour employing the lowest paid interpreters in order to save money at the expense of quality. This in turn is likely lead to more miscarriages of justice and more appeals.

Independent Assessment Centre

1. We see no reason why qualified interpreters should need to be reassessed if, in addition to their qualifications, they have been practicing for a number of years. This is discriminatory and constitutes a waste of the public money invested in the creation of the existing qualifications through the Nuffield Interpreter Project.

2. It does not make sense that experience seems to be completely discarded by the imposition of unknown assessments by unknown assessors, which appears to be the deciding factor as if interpreters, their organisations and their expertise never existed.

3. What credentials do the assessors have? Assessors do already exist in the public service interpreting domain who have not only the experience but are also qualified to do so.

4. In the absence of the teaching and testing materials, we cannot make an informed decision as to the suitability and standard of the proposed assessment.

6. All assessment materials and designs must be tested and approved by existing interpreters’ organisations as they have within their number the right experts who should be able to assist in deciding the level and standard of the assessment materials as well as who should or shouldn’t be assessed.

7. Are interpreters expected to bear all the additional costs of these controversial assessments, insurance and CPD?

Document 3

Code of Conduct

1. As mentioned in 14 above, interpreters are already bound by more stringent and robust codes of practice and conduct than that proposed in the Framework Agreement.

2. Since it is proposed that a sole supplier would be the provider of the interpretation and translation services, there should be vicarious liability on the part of the supplier and there should be no need for interpreters to have professional indemnity insurance (19th bullet point).

We cannot respond strongly enough to these proposals other than to state that we are extremely concerned about their implications and the impact they will have on the future of Public Service Interpreting and to recommend that you seriously consider all the submissions put forward by individual interpreters and by their representative bodies.

Yours sincerely,

Klasiena Slaney
Company Secretary
For and on behalf of SOMI UK Ltd

Written Ministerial Statement on Interpretation and Translation Services to the Justice Sector

February 26th, 2012
From Interpretation Project � Provision of interpretation and
translation services to the justice sector

You may be interested to know that a Written Ministerial Statement on Interpretation and Translation Services to the Justice Sector was issued in the House of Commons on Wednesday 15 September 2010. Please use the following link to see the text of the statement:

http://www.publications.parliament.u…00915.htm#d2e\
291

Many thanks

Louisa Carrad
Interpreters Project Manager
Justice Policy Group
Ministry of Justice
______________________
Written Ministerial Statements for 15 September 2010

Justice

Interpretation and Translation Services (Justice Sector)
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Mr Crispin Blunt): The
Government are proposing to make changes to the provision of interpretation and
translation services across the justice sector. We need to reduce waste and cut
costs but we shall do so in a way that safeguards quality.

Articles 5 and 6 of the European convention on human rights and fundamental
freedoms (ECHR) give the right to interpretation for those who are arrested and
who face criminal court proceedings. In addition, we expect the European Union
to adopt a directive in the autumn intended to ensure that the rights enshrined
in the ECHR are implemented consistently across all member states.

Currently, the non-binding National Agreement on Arrangements for the Use of
Interpreters, Translators and Language Service Professionals in Investigations
and Proceedings within the Criminal Justice System sets out how criminal justice
organisations are expected to source interpreters and translators in England and
Wales. The National Agreement gives the National Register of Public Service
Interpreters (NRPSI) as the first source for foreign language interpreters and
translators and the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf
People Directory (now called the National Register of Communication
Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD)) for British Sign
Language and other language services for deaf and deafblind people. The Police
and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 codes of practice C and H also require that
whenever possible the police should use interpreters from these registers when
interviewing suspects.

Members of staff in justice organisations identify interpreters using the
registers and then contact them directly. Once the assignment is complete,
invoices are processed individually. This is an inefficient, labour-intensive
process.

The Ministry of Justice is engaging with the market to explore how
interpretation and translation can be delivered more efficiently. The exercise
is a “competitive dialogue”, which allows us to explore with potential providers
the best way for them to meet our requirements. Although we are not able to be
certain what the result of this exercise will be, we are anticipating a
“framework agreement” with a number of preferred suppliers. This will set out a
template or “call-off” contract. Justice organisations will then easily be able
to use the “call-off” contract to meet their specific requirements. The quality
of interpretation will be ensured through the terms of the contracts.

Outsourcing of language services in England and Wales

March 14th, 2011
 
Outsourcing of language services in England and Wales

Background

On 9 August 2010 the UK Ministry of Justice announced its intention to outsource the provision of language services across the justice sector to commercial intermediaries, under a framework agreement.

The National Agreement (NA)[1], in existence since 1998, sets out best practice guidelines, and stipulates that only competent, reliable and security-vetted interpreters registered with one of the approved registers should be used in criminal proceedings, except in exceptional circumstances, which must be documented and justified. The MoJ intends to abandon the NA, incorporating some of its elements into commercial contracts and retaining others as “good practice guidance”.

The National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI), in existence since 1994, which became the preferred source of qualified and vetted interpreters under the NA in 1998, forms no part of the Ministry’s plans under the new arrangements. In its place, commercial contracts will stipulate qualifications “as the alternative to membership of a specific register”[2]. This is clearly a retrograde step.

A similar exercise was carried out in 2009 in Scotland, as a result of which all Court interpreting was placed in the hands of one commercial agency. The result has been a mass exodus of professional interpreters, unwilling to work for the rates offered by the agency, leading to poorer quality of interpreting, delays, abandoned trials, and quite possibly miscarriages of justice. The expertise and corpus of knowledge and experience gathered over decades has been lost forever.

Compliance with EU Directive

The MoJ claims that specific requirements in the framework agreement and contracts for commercial agencies to establish registers will fully meet the obligation in the draft EU Directive on interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings to endeavour to establish a register or registers of interpreters and translators. Nonetheless it is seriously contemplating the effective abolition of the existing National Register of Public Service Interpreters and leaving regulation to the whim of commercial intermediaries driven entirely by the profit motive.

Views of the profession

Interpreters’ representatives are united in their opposition to the imposition of outsourcing of interpreting and translation services to the justice sector by way of contracts with commercial entities, whether singly or in any combination, on the grounds that:

  • it is contrary to the interests of justice
  • it does not comply with the draft EU directive in letter or spirit
  • it will consequently place the UK in breach of the ECHR
  • it runs counter to the provisions of the EU Council Resolution on the implementation of the Directive
  • it will lead to ineffective trials, an increase in the number of appeals, miscarriages of justice, and regular appearances of the UK in the ECJ
  • it is naïve to expect the market to take care of regulation, discipline and linked issues
  • it does not address issues of security, vetting and data protection
  • it does not address issues of the security and safety of interpreters both personal and data
  • it will not save money
  • effective abolition of both the NRPSI and the NA will destroy the UK’s beacon status within the EU and remove it from a model of best practice to the very bottom of the heap
  • it will reverse the trend of increasing professionalisation of interpreters and turn the clock back twenty years

The profession recognizes the pressure brought to bear on Justice by the expansion of the EU, the rapid growth of immigration into the UK and practical issues in respect of sourcing interpreters and administering their claims. The answer is:

  • a properly run and constituted independent regulatory body
  • revision of the NA in consultation with interpreters’ representative bodies, and mandatory observance of its provisions
  • compulsory use of NRPSI-registered interpreters, with a full audit trail to allow monitoring of compliance and free availability of statistics
  • meaningful dialogue with interpreters’ representatives on enhanced quality, better value for money and raised expectations
  • public service interpreting to be a recognised profession, with statutory protection of title

Conclusion

It would be no exaggeration to say that the interpreting profession in the UK is in a state of crisis. Many very experienced interpreters, some with decades of experience, are now actively seeking alternative sources of income, which will inevitably lead to a decline in the quality of interpreting in the Criminal Justice System.

These proposed “reforms” are contrary to the interests of justice, contrary to both the letter and spirit of the draft EU Directive, and will end up providing the Courts in England and Wales with a lower quality of interpreting at a higher price, and are to be deplored.


[1] National Agreement on Arrangements for the Use of Interpreters, Translators and Language Service Professionals in Investigations and Proceedings within the Criminal Justice System, as revised 2007

[2] Letter from Ministry of Justice, 9 August 2010

EU courts must offer interpreting and translation during proceedings

October 27th, 2010

Thu, Oct 07 2010

EU courts must offer interpreting and translation during proceedings

The Council of the European Union has adopted rules that will make interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings compulsory, if these services are required.

An agreement has been reached with the European Parliament in first reading. Member states will now have to transpose the directive into national law. The directive is based on an initiative taken by 13 Member States (Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Spain, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Finland and Sweden).

The new directive will substantially enhance the rights for suspected and accused persons. According to the communique, under the terms of the directive “they will have the right to interpretation, meaning that a suspected or accused person who does not understand or speak the language of the criminal proceedings concerned will be provided without delay with interpretation during criminal proceedings before investigative and judicial authorities, including during police questioning, during all court hearings and during any necessary interim hearings”.

Where necessary for the purpose of ensuring the fairness of the proceedings,interpretation will also be available for communication between the suspected or accused person and his legal counsel in direct connection with any questioning or hearing during the proceedings or with the lodging of an appeal or other procedural applications, such as for bail.”

More information on the new directive is available here

Right to interpretation and translation
The EU is taking action to tackle the problem of varying standards and different levels of access to legal interpreting and translation available in criminal proceedings throughout its territory.

All EU countries are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – this is a requirement for joining the EU. The ECHR provides that anyone facing a criminal charge should be provided with the services of an interpreter, free of charge, if he/she doesn’t understand the language of the proceedings.

Safeguarding the right to a fair trial
The 2010 Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings pdf was adopted in oder to rectify this situation.

In line with the requirements of the ECHR, as interpreted in the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), it requires EU countries to put in place the following mechanisms:

Interpretation
It should be provided, free of charge, where necessary for the purpose of safeguarding the fairness of the proceedings. This includes:

police interrogation,
essential meetings between client and lawyer, and
at trial.
Remote interpretation via videoconference, telephone, or Internet can be used if the physical presence of the interpreter is not required to safeguard fairness.

Translation of essential documents
Suspected or accused persons who do not understand the language of the proceedings must be provided with a written translation of documents that are essential for them to exercise their right of defence. This includes:

the detention order,
the indictment, and
the judgment.

Quality control
A quality sufficient to ensure that suspected or accused persons have knowledge of the case against them and are able to exercise their right of defence is required.

To ensure that qualified legal interpreters and translators are available, EU countries are called on to set up a register of qualified translators and interpreters, and to make it available to legal counsels and relevant authorities.

Training
To ensure efficient and effective communication, relevant training of judges, prosecutors and judicial staff must be provided.

EU countries have until 27 October 2013 to implement the directive.

It was adopted following the 2009 Roadmap for strengthening procedural rights, which included a measure on translation and interpretation.

Videoconference and Remote Interpreting in Criminal Proceedings

August 19th, 2010

International Symposium:

Videoconference and remote interpreting in legal proceedings

London, 17th-19th February 2011

Avidicus 1 is now available as an on-line book Videoconference and Remote Interpreting
in Criminal Proceedings