Justice CommitteeWritten evidence from the Chartered Institute of Linguists


1. The Chartered Institute of Linguists (“the Institute”) is glad to have the opportunity to provide evidence to the Select Committee.

2. In consultation and collaboration with the legal services, starting in 1982, the Institute researched and developed qualifications and professional standards for interpreting services for the criminal justice services, establishing the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) in 1994. The Institute was a key participant in consultations leading to the introduction, in 1997, of the National Agreement on Arrangements for the Use of Interpreters, Translators and Language Service Professionals in Investigations and Proceedings within the Criminal Justice System (revised in 2002 and further revised in 2007) (“the National Agreement”).1

3. The Institute took part in direct meetings with the CJS Interpretation Project from the start of 2010, and submitted evidence to the project. The Institute has followed with close interest and concern the implementation of the Languages Services Framework that was finally launched in February 2012.

4. The evidence provided here focuses primarily on the first two areas that the Select Committee wishes to explore, ie the rationale for changing arrangements for the provision of interpreter services, and the nature and appropriateness of the procurement process. We are aware that other bodies, which are in a position to offer more direct evidence relating to the other areas of enquiry will be covering those in their own submissions. We will, however, draw attention to some of the main negative outcomes of the Language Services Framework and its implementation.


5. The Chartered Institute of Linguists believes that the intrinsically worthwhile deliverables sought by the Ministry of Justice in its Language Services Framework Agreement, are seriously undermined in the following main aspects:

A competitive sourcing process which would make unrealistic demands on a single national provider with insufficient experience in the field.

A failure comprehensively to apply existing nationally and internationally recognised professional standards.

Lack of understanding of the practical aspects of language in use, evidenced, for example, in the proposal that members of the legal services can predict the language complexity of a future event and allocate individuals with the “right” level of language skills to them.

The concept that a single profit-making commercial body should have national control over the fees and working arrangements of professionals, without appropriate involvement of the relevant professional organisations or of individual practitioners.

Inadequate recognition of the crucial need to foster and preserve trust between the criminal justice system, the public and interpreters.

Lack of appreciation of the potential damage to the mutual trust required between the legal services of the UK and of other EU member states.

Failure to recognise the need for a regulatory body independent of any provider, which can register interpreters who meet appropriate and necessary criteria in regard to qualifications, experience, CRB checks, and which can administer disciplinary procedures.

Inadequate recognition of the principles of EU Directive 2010/64/EU (“the Directive”) on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings, which is to be implemented by October 2013.

Background and context

6. The Chartered Institute of Linguists (www.iol.org.uk) is the largest professional language body in the UK, with a membership of over 6,000, comprising translators, interpreters, bilingual professionals and educators working in a range of contexts. It is non-profit making, in accordance with the terms of its Royal Charter, and it has seen its work in connection with public services as important. Beginning in 1982, with support from the Nuffield Foundation, it developed and piloted systems for the selection, training, assessment and good practice of public service interpreters across all sectors. There was close collaboration with the legal services throughout the development work on that sector of the public services.

7. This resulted in:

The establishment in 1994 of the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI), which is now an independent voluntary regulatory body (www.nrpsi.co.uk), administering registration processes against appropriate criteria, a code of conduct and disciplinary procedures.

Relevant national examinations, mapped against independent national and international standards and accredited by Ofqual. These are offered by the IoL Educational Trust (http://iol.org.uk/qualifications/examsmain.asp) the associated charity of the Chartered Institute of Linguists:

Diploma in Public Service Interpreting (DPSI) at initial professional level (QCF level 6—first degree) in four pathways: Law (England and Wales), Law (Scotland), Health and Local Government, which includes housing and other social services. In 2011, some 850 candidates registered in full or in part for the DPSI (Law, England and Wales) in 39 languages.

Diploma in Translation (Dip.Trans) at QCF Level 7 (Masters) This has a general paper together with a choice of semi-specialised options including law. It is intended to offer a certificate in public service translation at this level.

Certificate in Bilingual Skills (CBS). At about A level, this is too low a level to accredit interpreting skills but provides a solid foundation to begin training for the DPSI. It has been adapted for testing second language skills for public service employees such as police officers eg CBS for Metropolitan Police.

Candidates come primarily from the UK but also, particularly for the Dip.Trans, from abroad.

8. Since 1998, the Chartered Institute has, to date, been a core participant in eight successive EU projects supported by the European Commission, whose recommendations have been accepted by the Commission. The earlier projects informed the Directive and the later ones its implementation.2

9. There has been continuous collaboration with the legal services and other language bodies throughout, including:

The NRPSI Legal Services Advisory Group, which started its work in 1994–95. This included senior representatives from the Home Office, Crown Prosecution Service, Law Society, probation service, immigration tribunals, legal aid, Association of Chief Police Officers, Metropolitan Police, Magistrates’ Association, prison service and Customs & Excise.

After some years this was subsumed into the Interpreter Working Group (IWG), under the auspices of the Better Trials Unit. This brought in other language bodies such as those for British Sign Language.

Inter alia, the IWG:

Submitted a funding proposal for £64 million of five-year tapering funding to establish not-for-profit regional units for the provision of interpreting and translation services, under national guidelines, creating an efficient 24/7 operational system. At the same time it would include a focus on necessary growth, eg through training, data collection and liaison. This was rejected.

Developed the National Agreement on Arrangements for the Use of Interpreters, Translators and Language Service Professionals in Investigations and Proceedings within the Criminal Justice System.

10. This 30 years of diligent, incremental and consensual work has been carried out in the context of:

National lack of funding for language training in general and public service interpreter training in particular.

The limited number of languages offered in academic courses, and the failure to formalise the potential resource of those who speak a language in addition to English.

The low priority given to language provision on the part of the public services generally.

Sensitivities around languages and cultures.

The failure to challenge the unacceptability of informal interpreting arrangements, eg by children, neighbours or other unqualified persons.

11. Nonetheless, a survey on the provision of legal interpreting and translation in the EU, published in 2008, showed that the UK at that time compared favourably with other member states—but may not now do so.3

12. Structures had been established within the UK for a professional framework as recommended by the first EU project, in 2001 (see Appendix I). It only remained to fine-tune their quality through experience and to increase the quantity of legal interpreters and translators. These structures for the legal sector create a model for the formalisation of the profession for all language practitioners.

13. The provision of interpreters and translators alone is not enough to deliver an effective and equal legal service to multi-lingual societies. The UK had therefore, along with some other member states, begun to address the other skill sets and structures required (see Appendix II). For example, training of legal services is mentioned in the Directive in Article 6:

“Member States shall request those responsible for the training of judges, prosecutors and judicial staff involved in criminal proceedings to pay special attention to the particularities of communicating with the assistance of an interpreter so as to ensure efficient and effective communication.”

14. It may be noted that such training should include not only how to work with translators and interpreters. It should also apply to the wider challenge of how the legal services themselves should research, plan, organise and implement their service delivery to a multi-lingual, multi-cultural society, for which and to which they are accountable.

Development of the Languages Services Framework (LSF)

15. It was understandable that the MOJ should become impatient and frustrated, along with everyone else, at the pace of progress—although that slow pace was not altogether surprising in the context of managing the development of effective practices to deal with intercultural national social change.

16. It is also recognised that it can be inefficient and inappropriate for hard pressed police officers, and others, to locate and commission the right language practitioners. There has to be some sort of intermediary independent professional arrangement, as other professions have. In this context, it was unfortunate that the MOJ took heed of the small group of vociferous interpreters who, for their own reasons, were critical of the standards bodies at the time. Many of these interpreters have since changed their view.

17. It was clear from the outset, despite advice from the language profession, that the following factors, integral to both the LSF and the rationale behind it, were likely to disadvantage any tender winner:

(i)The failure to appreciate the fragmented and inconsistent nature of data and skills available across the country; this might have been nurtured better through a consistent regional approach, rather than by employing a single, national organisation without the necessary depth of understanding and experience.

(ii)The evident lack of appreciation of the relevance to public service interpreting of the basic principles underpinning any profession.4

(iii)The omission of existing professional standards bodies from the LSF, in particular the NRPSI, and the notion that a national professional register can be administered by a commercial company, which is at odds with the spirit of the Directive.

(iv)The unfortunate concept that a single profit making company can dictate the fees and working arrangements for a profession on a national basis. The Institute does not normally involve itself in the employment arrangements of its members, unless standards are affected. It does, however, conduct regular Rates & Salaries Surveys.5

(v)Many language practitioners belong to the National Union of Professional Interpreters and Translators (NUPIT. www.unitetheunion.org/nupit). No doubt the union and other bodies will be presenting detailed evidence on this topic. Suffice it for us to say that reasonable fees must be paid in order to attract and retain language practitioners with the level and type of skills and qualifications required by the CJS. These skills are in demand elsewhere, as can be seen from the Rates & Salaries Survey. The Chartered Institute, given its broad membership, is aware that many public service interpreters have portfolio careers, as demand for their skills is by definition unpredictable. In the face of a decline in remuneration for work in the CJS, they may decide to concentrate on other areas to make use of their professional skills.

(vi)Lack of understanding of language and language practice, such as:

The misconception that members of the legal services can predict the language complexity of events in advance and then allocate interpreters with the “right” level of language skills to them. Linguistic difficulty is not determined by the importance of the occasion as perceived by the legal services. It can, for example, be more linguistically challenging to interpret in a neighbourhood or domestic dispute in an informal context than in a straightforward guilty plea in a high court.

Failure to take account of the fact that a lower standard of interpreting is not appropriate at a lower “tier” of the MOJ interpreting tiers: accuracy is the crux of the matter. It is recognised in the UK that QCF Level 6 (first degree) is the “minimum level for professional interpreting qualifications”.6

Failure to recognise that monitoring should not solely relate to logistics but should also involve engaging independent competent linguists to assess professional skills and practice.

Main Negative Outcomes

18. A significant number of registered and qualified legal interpreters and translators have refused to work for ALS and may never return. Other organisations will have submitted their own evidence on this.

19. There is well documented and widely publicised evidence that the LSF has led to reduction in the efficiency of the criminal justice system when members of the public who do not speak English are involved. This has cost implications, as will certainly be evidenced by others in their submissions.

20. The risk of the inadequate practices set out in the LSF being transferred to the health and other public service sectors is of grave concern. The absence of professional interpreters or deficiencies in translation and interpreting can have potentially fatal results. For example, see The Victoria Climbié Inquiry report of an inquiry by Lord Laming,7 and Executive Summary of The Eighth Report of the Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths in the UK by the Centre for Maternal and Child Enquiries (CMACE).8

21. Most importantly, the trust between the MOJ and the legal services, the language practitioners and the public has been damaged, and the damage can only increase. That trust is crucial here in three particular aspects:

All the parties involved in the CJS have to be able to trust the interpreters and translators. As the criminal justice system involves a series of legal services, this means they must be able to trust each other, and the interpreters and translators engaged by each service, in order to retain the integrity of the whole. The courts, for example, must be able to trust the communication in the prior investigations and reports for the courts to rely on the evidence before them on which to base their decisions. Furthermore, the courts must be able to rely on communication in what comes after the hearings to ensure that the subsequent actions they order, such as the range of sentencing options—including community service orders—are carried out satisfactorily.

The public must be able to trust the CJS. This applies particularly to new arrivals, who may not intuitively trust our legal system, especially if they have come from countries where legal systems may be corrupt or arbitrary.

Mutual trust between member states is essential in order to underpin increasing judicial cooperation for the prevention of terrorism and trafficking of drugs and people; for implementing mutually recognised legislation and for dealing with cases that cross national borders.


22. It is clear that the arrangements under which the LSF operates are unsatisfactory for the reasons enumerated above.

23. If allowed to continue, it is likely that the following will happen:

continued risk to the CJS and the parties involved in the service delivered by it;

escalating costs arising from adjournments, appeals etc;

diminution of the availability of qualified interpreters and weakening of the professional base;

further loss of trust; and

regression from our former position as one of the leaders among EU member states, in the development of practice and policy in this important area of justice.

24. If the shortcomings identified are not dealt with effective progress will not be made. The Chartered Institute of Linguists recommends that the essential principles relevant to the provision of interpreting and translation in the justice system be reviewed objectively and openly, restoring and making full use of the existing but endangered professional base to bring about an efficient system for delivery of interpreting in the criminal justice services.

Keith Moffitt MCIL
Chair of Council

Ann Corsellis OBE Hon.FCIL



(extract from Non-English Speakers and the English Legal System, Ann Corsellis; published by Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge)

A. Providing a service includes the following tasks, which are the responsibility of the public service in question

1.Finding out about the client(s) and their requirements.

2.Preparing the service to meet those requirements.

3.Giving information about the service to the client(s).

4.Exchanging information and negotiating decisions with client(s).

5.Delivering an appropriate service.

6.Quality Assurance.

7.Researching and developing the service

B. By using, at each stage, the combination of professional skills below:




3.Language aware personnel.

4.Bilingual service personnel.

Service delivery

5.Service professionals with relevant expertise.


6.Planners, organisers, researchers with relevant expertise.

C. Each skill (in B above) is made available through consistent, transparent:



3.Assessment at appropriate levels.

4.Observance of code of ethics and good practice.

5.Appropriate employment arrangements.


7.Support and Continuous Professional Development.


The Linguist, Vol. 50 No. 1, 2011, pp. 21–2


By Ann Corsellis

Since 1998, the CIOL has been involved in a number of EU projects in the public service sector, which provide a context to the reports on progress published in The Linguist from time to time (see Council News, page 33). Public service interpreting and translation (PSIT) encompasses all areas of the public sector, including legal, health and social services. One day it is hoped that structures and resources may evolve to enable PSITs to have access to post-graduate training and assessment, and careers, that allow them to work in all the public services. Meanwhile, progress is being made sector by sector.

The lead is currently being taken by the legal system, mainly because there is relevant legislation. As Anne Martin and Juan Miguel Ortega illustrated in their excellent article in the last issue (TL50,4), to preserve the integrity of the whole, legal interpreters and translators (LITs) have to be equipped to work across the legal system, so to call them “police” or “court” interpreters could be misleading.

Criminal (and civil) matters are increasingly an international activity. It therefore follows that the EU should seek to establish equivalent standards for LITs in all 27 member states to promote three main activities:

1.Implementation of the basic legal principle that each individual is equal before the law, irrespective of language and culture.

2.Judicial cooperation between states in matters such as the prevention of terrorism and of trafficking in drugs and people.

3.Mutual recognition measures, such as the common European Arrest Warrant, which became mandatory in 2004.

The best structures to deal with this will not spring forth in perfect form. A patient process of international and interdisciplinary exploration, consultation and development is required. The fundamental legal requirements exist, notably in Article 6, paragraph 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).1 It is worth reading the clear account of the legal progression by Caroline Morgan, a lawyer from the European Commission, in the report of the AVIDICUS project2—and to note the road map described.

There have been seven EU-funded projects focusing on LITs. The first ones informed the Directive 2010/64/EU3 of the European Parliament on the right to interpreting and translation in criminal proceedings; later ones support its implementation:

1.Aequitas. Recommended the equal and adequate standards required (2001).

2.Aequalitas. Sought to disseminate those standards throughout the EU (2003).

3.Aequilibrium. Looked at the necessary liaison working arrangements between the language and legal professions (2005).

4.Status Quaestionis. Survey of developments in LIT in all member states showed an uneven patchwork of provision (2008).4

5.EULITA. European Legal Interpreters’ and Translators’ Association aims to promote EU-wide standards and information exchange (2009).5

6.Building Mutual Trust 1. Selection of sample teaching and other materials for LITs and legal services, and their trainers (2011).6

7.AVIDICUS 1 Assessing the implications of videoconference interpreting (2011).7

Three more projects are currently in progress: Building Mutual Trust 2 concerns developing video training materials, and AVIDICUS 2 continues to research the implications of video-mediated interpreting. A EULITA project, TRAFUT, will promote implementation strategies.

Network of Experts

Institutions from at least three member states have been involved in each project, resulting in a growing creative network of professional expertise. The CIOL has been a core participant, except in the EULITA projects, to which it gives support when asked. Lead coordinators have rotated, with the CIOL leading the first project.

The work on LITs is an integral part of the concept of equality before the law and being prepared to implement that in practice. Equal and adequate standards of LITs in all member states will happen slowly, but there is no alternative to getting it right, especially given non-negotiable legal principles, recognised, graduate-level language standards for reliable transfer, and EU and domestic legislation.

The reasons for competent implementation are obvious. More interesting are the reasons for not doing it well, for attempted short-cuts and short-term compromises. One wonders whether cost is as significant as it seems, and whether votes may play a part.

Progress has been made but is intermittent and brings anomalies. For example, where there is insufficient shared language, police officers may not conduct an interview without the assistance of a qualified interpreter, paid for by the state—but doctors can8—and do.

Now there’s a thought. It looks as if support of the wider profession is going to be needed for some time yet.


1. www.echr.coe.int

2. Morgan, C, “The New European Directive on the Rights to Interpretation and Translation in Criminal Proceedings” in Braun, S & Taylor, J L (eds.), Videoconference and Remote Interpreting in Criminal Proceedings, 2011, Guildford: University of Surrey, 5–10. Available at www.videoconference-interpreting.net/BraunTaylor2011.html3 eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2010:280:0001:0007:en:PDF

4. For more on Aequita, Aequalitas, Aequilibrium and Status Quaestionis, see www.agisproject.com

5. www.EULITA.eu

6. www.lr.mdx.ac.uk/mutual-trust/

7. www.videoconference-interpreting.net

8. Directive 2011/24/EU on the Application of Patients’ Rights in Cross-Border Healthcare, 9 March 2011.

1 http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/courts/interpreters/National Agreement on Use of Interpreters-August 2008.pdf

2 See article from The Linguist, attached as Appendix III.

3 Status Quaestionis: Eds. Hertog & Grucht (www.agisproject.com)

4 Aequitas, chap 7.

5 The 2012 survey, carried out in collaboration with the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), is forwarded as an annex to this submission.

6 National Occupational Standards in Interpreting (London: CILT, revised 2006, final version 2010).

7 http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_4008654)

8 http://www.mdeireland.com/pub/SML11_Executive_Summary.pdf.
Also, Saving mother’s lives: reviewing maternal deaths to make motherhood safer—2003–2005. The Seventh Report on Confidential Enquiries into Maternity Deaths in the United Kingdom. G. Lewis (ed.) 2007 (London: CEMACH The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health).

Prepared 5th February 2013