Justice CommitteeWritten evidence from Bogumila Kolbus

I am a Polish interpreter with 12 years of experience of interpreting within Criminal Justice System- during this time I interpreted in Crown Courts, Magistrates’ Courts, Tribunals, Family Courts, various police forces, on conservative estimate over 12 years I did 20,000 hours of interpreting.

I studied law in Poland, obtained a Law Degree and completed a Legal practice Course in England where I also obtained interpreting qualifications in the forms of IAA Assessment and Metropolitan Police Test, therefore I think I am well qualified to comment of the recent changes in provision of interpreters for HMCTS and The Framework Agreement.

As per email from Ms Carrad from the Interpretation Project dated 27 April 2011 in response to my email dated 14 April 2011 and the Equality Impact Assessment the aims of the project the reasons for introduction of the Framework Agreement were:

1.Cutting the costs- according to the MoJ the annual costs of providing interpreters is £85 million but in response to a FoI no the MoJ stated that the costs are £10 million for Magistrates Courts and £5 million for Crown Courts ( MoJ FoI disclosure log ref 72066)- so where is the claimed figure of £85 million coming from?

The contract with ALS is for £300 million for five years and was supposed to bring £12 million saving- sorry the figures do not add up—85–12= 73 and recently the MoJ admitted that those savings will not be achieved.

If we take into account the number of hearings that were adjourned since the arrangements were introduced for example in the first two weeks on a number of days hearings that could not proceed only in Westminster MC (as observed personally) would be approx 100 (10 per day) the situation only improved once the courts were allowed to book interpreters from NRPSI themselves. I tried to obtain the exact figures writing to approx 300 Magistrates’ and Crown Courts individually, only for those request to be conveniently pooled “as a part of a campaign or number of similar requests” and information refused by MoJ because “gathering of the information exceeded the prescribed cost”. That means that nobody can get a full picture with regard to the whole country or even a sample. The MoJ admitted that they have the information but did not want to release the information because it was too damning I if you add collapsed trials eg Snaresbrook CC, interpreters being late –eg Westminter MC interpreters arriving 4pm, 5pm instead 10am and other well documented examples, wrong language interpreter provided and possible appeals in future due to lack of interpreter and cases proceeding and quality of interpreting there will be no savings but possible huge additional costs.

2. The process of identifying and booking interpreters costly and time consuming, single point of contact desirable.

Under the old system interpreters were booked by the list office and subsequently rebooked for future hearings by a court clark and/or list office. All the courts had their own lists of local, reliable (on the basis of previous performance) interpreters sourced from the National Register of Public Service Interpreters. They called them and in most languages they obtained the interpreter in one or two calls, most of us, if unable to attend would call other colleagues and find somebody available in 10 minutes - the court had the name, telephone number and ETA if urgent. If you were late you risked the court clark tearing a strip out of you, a possible reprimand from a judge and no future bookings from that court and since we are self-employed that could have serious consequences.

Now the court puts the request in and waits- no name, no telephone number for the interpreter as per court staff I spoke to- “we don’t know who is coming, when they are coming, if they are coming at all”. Calls to ALS to chase the request are being met with promises that somebody will be there for 11.00, then 14.00, 16.00 or by ALS staff trying to convince the court to cancel the request. If the interpreter is late the explanation is “I was only told about it this morning , an hour ago I came from 190 miles away” by the interpreter or “there was a breakdown of communications, the information was not relayed” by ALS representative, as per recent explanations in the Court of Appeal”. Consequences? More court time wasted listening to ALS’s excuses—Westminster MC a number of times, Kingston CC, Peterborough CC, Court of Appeal and a handful of wasted costs orders

According to the MoJ the situation “is improving” but since the MoJ did not monitor the contract from the beginning and the statistics were provided by ALS and as such unreliable (they would hardly admit they are unable to perform) and on the face of it there is some improvement because ALS is actually sending somebody but very often in wrong language which either says that ALS staff are not trained well or a deliberate tactic if they haven’t got somebody in the right language.

Another thing is who they send- only 300 of the interpreters from 2,300 on the NRPSI joined ALS, and that’s by ALS and having in mind that a lot of NRPSIs found themselves “signed” with ALS without their knowledge and had to request their details to be removed a number of times, this is also unreliable figure. The “assessments” are conducted by ALS (they were supposed to be independent but the Middlesex University denied they are conducting them, only constructed an “instrument” to be used by ALS). More importantly the assessment does not have a pass rate, so anybody can become a “linguist”, please note that they are not called “interpreters” by als., and very often people were offered jobs without the assessment or CRB clearance or even checking their identity- I registered with ALS under fictitious name, address, no qualifications whatsoever no CRB clearance and was offered two jobs straight away. A rabbit called Jajo, a dead dog and a cat called Masha (in rare “Cat” language), Alexandr Orlov (50 years to get his GCSEs, clearance by KGB) were also offered assessments or jobs. Warwickshire Police tasked with providing clearances for ALS workers only received 743 requests from ALS, from that only 570 were cleared, with ALS claiming to have 2,000, 3,500, 4,000 “linguists” on their books.

The standard of interpreting, and that can only be judged by an interpreter or a person speaking both languages fluently is such that as an Institute of Linguists examiner for the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting and Metropolitan Police Test (two exams that qualify the interpreter for inclusion on the National Register of Public Service Interpreters) since 2006 none from approx 25 Polish ALS “linguists” I observed in court since February would pass- their standard of English is inadequate, knowledge of court procedures and specialist legal vocabulary non-existent, unprofessional behaviour rife (eg using their phone in court or even in the dock- probably to use Google Translate or text, inappropriate laughing and joking, discussions with defendants) and possible disciplinary procedures impossible as the “linguists” do not introduce themselves, often do not take an oath and as such are non-identifiable, and even if they are identified as the Romanian interpreter responsible for collapsing a trial in Snaresbrook CC to the tune of £25.000 are not disciplined- this “linguist” was seen in Wood Green CC two days later and back in Snaresbrook the following week.

And one of the other reasons for the change was that “the complaints made against interpreters are not being investigated as thoroughly as we would like and it is not always clear what, if any action is taken”.

That is if somebody actually made a complaint to the NRPSI they would know how it was dealt with because the NRPSI considered the complaints and the outcome was notified to both the complainant and subject of the complaint- I know because I made a complaint against another NRPSI interpreter. Usually what would happen was that the particular interpreter was simply not called by a particular court and lost work as result and now? The “linguist” is being sent to the same court as if nothing happened and the court can’t do anything about it. With ALS it is like any other call centre with everything- you call, you complain you demand action and nothing changes because nobody gives a damn, nobody is identifiable because they are in India, Poland or somewhere else, and as a result you just waste your time because the company is not interested in provision of good service, just interested to get your money doing as little as possible and as cheaply as possible- how many “linguists” were disciplined or removed from ALS books? As per ALS can’t afford to remove people from their books because nobody wants to work for them on their terms and conditions being paid £16 or £20 per hour (the tier 1 jobs @ £22 per hour as per description described in Document 2: Tiers and Rates of Payment do not exist) with min 1 hr payable, limited travel costs payable and limited travel time payable in theory, in practice it depends how well you can haggle with ALS.

Examples of jobs published on ALS site

Duration: 15 min (since when the courts operate appointments by hours and minutes?)

Town: Huddersfield

Date: 29 August 2012, 10.00 (the court has to accommodate the mighty ALS on the dot presumably since they deigned to send somebody- is the court for interpreter or interpreter for court?)

Payment estimate: £50

Travel time 2.5 hours (around 80 miles)

Town :Stockport

Date 29 August 2012, 9.45 duration 40 min, 1 hour travel time 10–30 miles (?) payment estimate £25

It might not look too bad as per hr but this might be the only job that day, or maybe 2 that can be reasonably done within court hrs, the interpreter gets £50 per day minus travel expenses, pay for parking, tax, NI contributions, indemnity ins, car maintenance, we have no holiday pay, no sick pay and of course there is no guarantee that he will be another job that week - at best this amounts to minimum wage (as advertised by als in their recruitment ads. I can work in a warehouse or a factory for guaranteed pay pocket every week plus benefits, as a cleaner I can earn £10–15 p/h cash in hand. Did I study for my degree, obtained other qualifications for that? Please bear in mind that we are highly skilled, highly educated people, working in difficult conditions, doing stressful work—try to tell me that interpreting at a murder or rape trial, child abuse is easy? Unsocial hours –police does not operate 9–5, with unpredictable work load, there are professors, doctors, people with Masters degrees but we are treated as migrant labour to be exploited. That’s why the current scheme will never work- there will be revolving doors with people signing with als, working for a while and leaving as soon as they realise that they are running around the country, being timed to the minute, spending money for travel and they can hardly earn a living- £50 per day, five days a week, 52 weeks (v. optimistic estimate based on my experience in a popular language- Polish amounts to 13,000 per year. I just applied for a paralegal job with Family Mosaic at £25,000 per year, sick pay, holiday pay, 9–5 easy work filling applications.

The MoJ were sold a fairy tale when you read the 5 documents setting out what the framework agreement was supposed to achieve- qualified, highly trained interpreters, consummate professionals, all (!???) languages available within 25 miles radius and supplied within an hour, full management information available (Document 4) with breakdown, feedback on complaints within 24 hrs. What they are getting is unqualified, non-vetted amateurs as and when als has somebody available in some part of the country- eg Rv Romanowicz, Reading CC, Polish 19 August 2012, two defendants, one “linguist” from Southampton 50 miles away, (previously 20 NRPSI interpreters available within 25 miles or the one travelling from Newcastle to Ipswich or the example above) In fact als can’t often supply even in popular languages like Polish, (320 on NRPSI). And how many jobs for Fidjian in Penzance per year to be available for within one hour? it is unrealistic- if there is a need for a particular language then soon more interpreters take up the exam- simple forces of the market, there is a reason why in some languages there is only a few interpreters in the whole country- the amount of work available.

Another reason for the Framework Agreement was to establish a register of interpreters as required by the EC Directive- but there is a register of qualified and cleared interpreters ran by a body with no vested interest, financed by subscriptions of interpreters, exams conducted by independent body- the Institute of Linguists, established following the miscarriage of justice in Begum case so why do it again?

The old system could have been improved in few simple ways-

by avoiding double bookings (there were sometimes two interpreters booked for one case but I never heard about seven interpreters booked for two defendants as ALS did in Blackfriars CC, case of Zarzycki and Bujnik 16 May 2012.

improving booking system so there will not be five Polish interpreters, each for a short hearing but one or two

cases with interpreters to be dealt first, not last as they were

centralise booking system via very efficient Tribunals Call Centre in Loughborough which booked interpreters for the tribunals throughout the country, the closest to the venue called first and strict control of travel time, punctuality etc

centralise payments to be submitted via email

This would bring genuine savings instead the MoJ went with a small company with poor record in North West , financially unstable, without interpreters on their books- did somebody check who ALS is? No- they believed smooth promises of a man who built his business on lies.

The MoJ is giving this company 300 millions of taxpayers money without checking what they are actually getting for it- the MoJ did not bother to monitor the performance despite what’s written in the Framework Agreement, is refusing to divulge any information regarding the performance (because they don’t have it?) gaging court staff and even Magistrates from talking about ALS’s performance.

Yours sincerely

Bogumila Kolbus Polish Interpreter

Below Some Interesting Reading- Only a Short Selection


Monday, 27 August 2012

A JUDGE has hit out at the company that provides translators in legal cases, saying its failure to provide reliable interpreters was a “plague” on the courts.

Judge David Ticehurst said the service provided by Applied Language Solutions had been “dreadful” because too often interpreters had not turned up, turned up late and on some occasions been “incompetent”.

1. His Hon Judge David Ticehurst

After the case of a cannabis gardener had to be postponed due to an interpreter being repeatedly late, Judge Ticehurst summoned ALS to court for a hearing to determine a “wasted costs order”.

Judge Ticehurst said: “Since ALS took over the contract, the courts have been plagued by a failure of interpreters to turn up, and not be as good at English as they should be.

“Family cases have had to be adjourned, as have criminal cases.

“When an interpreter is incompetent, late or fails to turn up, ALS says ‘it’s nothing to do with us’.”

Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service has a legal obligation under the Human Rights Act to provide interpreters.

ALS was appointed by the Ministry of Justice to have sole control of the contract for courts and tribunals in England and Wales on January 30.

But Judge Ticehurst said if it was up to him he would terminate the contract.

The barrister representing ALS, David Scutt, argued the company was doing everything it could to provide a reliable service.

But the judge argued: “What are they (ALS) getting paid for? Finding an interpreter who may or may not turn up on time?”

Under the Supreme Court Act 1981, judges have the power to order a party or legal representative to meet “wasted costs”. The court must give them a reasonable opportunity to attend a hearing to give reasons why it should not make such an order.

The case in the order against ALS was that of Men Pham, a 54-year-old Vietnamese woman who speaks no English.

On the day the case was first listed for sentence, 17 July, the interpreter was 44 minutes late, having come from London. By the time the case was able to be called, the judge was in the middle of a trial so had to adjourn it until August 14.

A request was made for the case to be heard at 2pm that day to allow for an interpreter’s travel time, yet still he was half an hour late, this time coming from Cardiff.

The case finally concluded at 3.10pm, when Pham was given a one-year suspended prison sentence and a six-month curfew.

Deciding not to make the costs order against ALS, Judge Ticehurst said: “I’m sure that, in future, ALS will ensure that any interpreters will appear in court, on time, not late.”

It is not clear how much money had been wasted by the delays.

On its website, ALS states it is “dedicated to providing high quality professional language translation service—at excellent prices”.

A company director declined to comment after the hearing.

Category: HMCTS Interpreting Reports

Published on Wednesday, 22 August 2012 10:02

Written by OM

I have recently spoken with the solicitor I worked with and he has told me that at a hearing at Reading Crown Court on 16th July ALS failed to provide a Ukrainian interpreter for their client I had worked with at prison.

The judge ordered £12,000 wasted costs to be paid by ALS. They were trying to send a Polish interpreter from Cambridge, it probably did not occur to them this was a different language! I am very proud to say I had refused to work on this case in court as professional interpreters have been boycotting the new arrangement, although the court had asked me, saying it was “at the solicitor’s request”.

ALS appears in court—as the defendant

Category: Analysis and Comment

Published on Wednesday, 22 August 2012 17:19

Written by Dutch Interpreter

ALS Ltd workers not turning up or not being up to the job of court interpreting is causing widespread disruption to the smooth running of the courts service. The knock-on effects of the failing contract are costly: unnecessary adjournments and remands in custody, and wasted costs for all parties attending. 

Judges and Magistrates are hitting Applied Language Solutions Ltd and its parent company Capita where it hurts with orders to pay wasted costs. One trial that collapsed at Snaresbrook because of ALS Ltd cost an estimated £25,000. The company was recently ordered to pay wasted costs of £12,000 by a judge at Reading Crown Court.

ALS is listed as the defendant in a case (U20121085) heard at Bristol Crown Court on 22 August, when the agency was spared a wasted costs order but was directed by HH Judge Ticehurst to get its workers to court on time in future. ALS also appeared as the defendant before a Peterborough Crown Court judge on 3 August (U20120097), “to show cause”.

Not content with delaying Justice through its ramshackle delivery of the contract worth £300 million, ALS Ltd now seems to be clogging up forthcoming listings with regular appearances in the dock.

Members of the judiciary ought to be quicker to use their powers—how many ALS Ltd managers and agency workers should really be in the dock for contempt of court?


9 August 2012 By Angus Crawford

BBC News Court interpreter checks “non-existent”

Interpreters from a private company have been working in courts in England and Wales without the required criminal record checks, the BBC has been told.

The checks are “non-existent”, one interpreter said.

A private company, ALS, took over the £300 million contract earlier this year but has faced criticism from judges, politicians and lawyers.

ALS says if it finds interpreters who do not have the right documentation, it will remove them from the register.

“Edward” (not his real name) has been a court interpreter for eight years and has worked for ALS since March.

He does not want to be identified for fear of losing work but describes security checks as “non-existent”.

He says he registered with ALS one evening and was offered his first work the next morning.

“I just did it online. I hadn’t filled in my references or work experience; they rang me up the next morning and offered me jobs. There was no chance to check anything; they didn’t,” he told the BBC.

It was “impossible” to check if he had a valid Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check, he said.

At that time he did not have a valid CRB check as required by ALS and the Ministry of Justice.

He worked without a CRB check for three months. In that time he worked on one trial involving Chinese triad gangs.

Edward fears lax security could allow criminals access to sensitive court information. It would, he says, be “pretty easy” to falsely register as an interpreter.

“Very worrying”

He describes that as “very worrying”.

That fear is echoed by Neil McCafferty, who is projects director of translation company Talk Russian UK.

His wife had been an occasional court interpreter and last year, to test the new system, he registered his cat Masha with ALS.

He said: “We signed her up for the rare cat language. We were absolutely staggered to start receiving emails from the company suggesting we take Masha the cat for a language assessment”.

In July this year he registered again but in his own name. He has no valid qualifications and no CRB check.

He said: “I was absolutely shocked when on their mobile phone app it was offering me work—I could have been anybody.”

“I could have been trying to access the criminal justice system for all sorts of unpleasant reasons. That in itself is incredibly frightening,” said Mr McCafferty.

There are 800 requests a day from courts in England and Wales, for an interpreter to assist a witness, a victim, or a defendant.

ALS, now owned by outsourcing giant Capita, has also been criticised for not providing enough staff and for low standards.

The most recent figures show that between 30 January and 30 April there were 2,232 official complaints about the service.

Of the trials it was asked to attend, it managed to provide staff to 81%—its contract demands 98%.

Translation errors Translation errors have led to trials collapsing.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Interpreters working in HM Courts and Tribunals must be vetted to the minimum requirement of an enhanced Criminal Record Bureau check”.

“It is the contractor’s responsibility to make sure they meet this requirement. We keep this and other contractual requirements under scrutiny,” he added.

It confirmed 43 interpreters had already been removed from the register for not having the appropriate checks.

ALS said: “If the BBC is aware of any interpreters working without the necessary information and is prepared to provide specifics, ALS will investigate and suspend or remove such interpreters, if appropriate.”

ALS was started from his back bedroom by Gavin Wheeldon in 2003. Eight years later he won the contract with the Ministry of Justice.

In December 2011 he sold the business to Capita and until last month was chief executive.

He strongly defends the performance of the contract: “Month one was very very bad, month two it improved dramatically...the level of complaints are almost non existent now.”

But “Edward” is turning his back on a system he thinks is insecure. “I’m not an isolated case, I talk with other interpreters, many of them have no qualifications at all,” he added.

VIDEO: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19191277

Court interpreter checks “non-existent”

It has been revealed that interpreters from a private firm have been working in courts in England and Wales without criminal record checks.

The government awarded the £300 million contract to ALS, which has been criticised for low standards and for not providing enough staff.

Angus Crawford reports.

Dear John,

Language Services in the Justice Sector

Following our meeting of 21 June I agreed to write to you with some further information on the issues we discussed.

You asked how many of the interpreters accepting assignments from Applied Language Solutions (ALS) were included on the NRPSI register. Information provided to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) by ALS indicated that, on 6 July, there were 301 interpreters on the ALS list who were also registered on the NRPSI. This number will of course fluctuate as new interpreters offer their services and others cease to offer their services under the contract.

You also wanted to know the length of the contract that the MoJ has signed with ALS. It may help if I explain that the MoJ has signed an overarching Framework Agreement with ALS to provide language services to the justice sector. The Framework Agreement has been signed for four years and contains the terms and conditions which the MoJ, or other justice sector bodies, will apply to the provision of language services. The MoJ has since signed a contract with ALS under the terms of the Framework Agreement. This contract is for five years. The difference in duration between the two is to allow for the Framework Agreement to be re-tendered while the contract is still in force.

Turning finally to your query in relation to professional indemnity insurance, the Framework Agreement requires ALS to ensure that throughout the contract the interpreter/translator is covered by a current and valid policy of professional indemnity, acceptable to ALS and the MoJ, providing insurance against any liability the individual may incur as a result of their appointment by ALS, or the performance or failure to perform any duty as outlined in the contract.

I hope that this letter clarifies the issues we discussed.

Crispin Blunt


I write in connection with your request for information dated 07 July 2012 received by Warwickshire Police on the same day, in which you seek access to the following information:

1. How many linguists has Warwickshire Police vetted for Applied Language Solutions Ltd and over what period?

2. Of those, how many were interpreters and how many were translators?

3. How many ALS Ltd translators and interpreters successfully passed the vetting process?

4. To what vetting level are checks carried out?

Following receipt of your request searches were conducted within Warwickshire Police to locate information relevant to your request. I can confirm that the information requested is held by Warwickshire Police and is documented below:

1. 720 Applications received by Warwickshire vetting unit since January 2012 to date.

2. We do not hold this information.

3. 574 accepted.

4. Non Police Personnel Vetting 3 (NPPV 3).

Appeal Rights

A MURDER trial had to be halted temporarily when a man translating vital evidence revealed he was only there because his wife—the real interpreter—was too busy.

The judge suspended the case when it became clear that Mubarak Lone was failing to translate key phrases fully and even got the oath wrong for a Sikh witness who was giving evidence.

It was only thanks to a junior defence barrister, who happened to speak Punjabi, that the problem was spotted.

Following an investigation it was discovered Mr Lone was not qualified or registered.

The fiasco can only be reported today following the conclusion of the trial of mum-of-two Rajvinder Kaur, who was yesterday sentenced to life with a minimum term of 11 years in prison , for battering her mother-in-law to death with a rolling pin.

The debacle—which delayed the case by a day, costing tens of thousands of pounds—is the latest in a long line of problems at courts across the country since the Government awarded the interpreter contract to Applied Language Solutions (ALS) in a bid to save £18 million.

There have already been thousands of complaints about interpreters provided by the firm, who either turn up late, fail to appear or are not up to the job.

Now a high profile Government committee is launching an inquiry into the awarding of the contract which has brought chaos to courtrooms throughout England.

The latest problem arose at Winchester Crown Court last Friday, shortly after Mr Lone, who turned up 45 minutes late causing the trial to be delayed, was sworn in.

When he attempted to translate the oath to a Sikh witness he got it wrong.

Then, while translating for Kaur’s husband Iqbal Singh as he took the stand to give evidence concerning his mother’s murder, Mr Lone went on to omit key words and phrases.

After repeated failed attempts by defence barrister Jonathan Fuller QC to have his questions asked correctly, the judge, Mr Justice Barnett, stopped the trial.

In the absence of the jury, Mr Lone admitted his wife had been contracted by ALS to act as a translator, but she already had work commitments so he went in her place.

He went on to say he had taken the interpreter test set by ALS but had not received his results and was not accredited.

Describing the situation, Mr Justice Barnett told the court: “This is extremely unfortunate, to use a classic understatement.”

However that wasn’t the end of the matter.

When the trial recommenced on Monday morning a similar situation unfolded when a new female interpreter from ALS arrived—but once again she was not able to correctly translate words and phrases.

The case was only able to continue with the assistance of Kaur’s junior counsel, Sukhdev Garcha.

Mr Garcha told the Daily Echo: “I couldn’t believe the first interpreter was so woefully inadequate and then it happened again with the second who was completely out of her depth. She didn’t understand a lot of words and phrases and her vocabulary was completely lacking.

“If I hadn’t spoken up then people in the court would have thought everything was being interpreted correctly.

“It would have been to the detriment of our client—we could have had a miscarriage of justice. That’s the price you pay.”

Defence barrister Jonathan Fuller QC added: “It’s at the very heart of the justice system because the words are the evidence. If you find, as a defence counsel, that you are calling evidence on words that are unreliable then that is the start of a miscarriage of justice.”

Mr Justice Barnett declined to comment further.


Courtroom interpreter “savings” evaporate

Thursday 19 July 2012 by Catherine Baksi

The Ministry of Justice has admitted that £12 million of savings predicted for the first year of controversial new arrangements for courtroom interpreting “will probably not be achieved”.

The announcement, by justice minister Lord McNally, came as the ministry declined to reveal the cost of the contract with Applied Language Solutions. In response to a freedom of information request made by the Gazette for the cost of the contract’s first three months, from February this year, the MoJ said it held the information but providing it would be too costly.

Problems with the new interpreting hub were revealed by the Gazette on 9 February.

McNally told peers last week that the contract had a “very poor start”, but said there had been “improvements” and that the government will ensure a high-quality service. Responding to a question from Labour peer Lord Harrison, McNally accepted that “the original estimate of a £12 million saving in the first year will probably not be achieved”, but he said “this is not a solution for just one year. It is a long-term solution that we hope will, once it is bedded down, give the service and quality required.”

Crossbencher Lady Coussins, vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, expressed concern that data on contract performance was provided by the contractor “without any independent verification or audit” and tells a “very different story from the complaints we hear daily from judges”.

McNally replied: “There is not an independent monitoring system—there is a client. We are the client, and we do not intend to pay good money for a shoddy service.”

He dismissed Coussins’ fear that poor performance could put the government in danger of legal action for non-compliance with a European directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings, due to be implemented in October 2013.

Applied Language Solutions declined to comment, referring enquiries to the MoJ.


I registered with ALS with fake details and got 12 job offers

Category: Analysis and Comment

Published on Tuesday, 17 July 2012 10:29

Written by Registrant

After reading about Jajo the rabbit I decided to register with ALS. I had (have) no intention of working for them. I only wanted to see how far I could go and how incompetent ALS is.

So I registered with a fake name (the name of a fictional character), a fake address (a well-known official residence of a head of state), a mobile number with only 10 digits and an obviously fake Skype name. No qualifications, no experience, no security vetting.

Two days after I registered I got my first job offer, a 45 minute job at a court in central London. Soon after that I received an email inviting me to take the assessment test, I did not reply, but I carried on receiving job offers. In total, up to now, I have received 12 job offers.

To me it’s very clear that:

(1)anyone can register online on the ALS website and ALS will not check their identity, qualifications, experience, security vetting, etc; and

(2)they offer jobs to people who register on their website without even checking the profile/details people give when they register—if they did, they would have realised that all my details were fake.

I have screenshots of my fake profile and the 12 job offers emails.


Distressed Vulnerable Adult and Wasted Costs as ALS Interpreter Fails to Attend on Time

Category: HMCTS Interpreting Reports

Published on Thursday, 12 July 2012 08:47

Written by Alan Brice

I was due to appear as an expert witness at North Shields Asylum Court last Tuesday for an Asylum Appeal hearing with a client of mine and we were expected to start at 10am. The client, myself, the solicitor and the barrister were all ready before 10am as were the Home Office and the Immigration Judge. The French ALS interpreter arrived at 11.05am. As a result of him being late, the Court managers decided to go ahead with the case which was supposed to follow our hearing. So instead of our case being heard first, we had to wait until 2.30pm to start.

The solicitor and I both lost half a day’s work. It distressed the client because they had to wait for nearly five hours rather than half an hour for the start of their case—the client is a vulnerable adult who has had psychiatric care following his torture in his home country.

I had to cancel a therapy session with an interpreter for a father & son that I see together, so it cost us, a small charity, the cost of the interpreter we had booked, the return travel of the father & son and it wasted the travel time it took them. It also means that I have to rebook that session into my busy schedule.

Alan Brice
Centre Manager
North East Centre


9 July 2012

£12 million interpreter savings “unlikely”

A new contract for providing interpreters in courts is unlikely to meet an expected £12 million saving in its first year, the Government has admitted.

The national scheme, run by Applied Language Solutions (ALS), has been plagued by reports of cases being delayed or abandoned as a result of translators failing to turn up or making mistakes.

Justice minister Lord McNally said ALS had made “a very poor start to this contract” but there had since been big improvements.

Labour’s Lord Harrison asked at question time in the House of Lords whether the Government would revise down the “original £12 million estimate” of cost savings. Lord McNally replied: “I presume that some of the original estimates of a £12 million saving in this first year will probably not be achieved—that makes common sense—but this isn’t a solution just for this year but a long-term solution which we hope, once it is bedded down, will give the service and quality required.”

Baroness Coussins, an independent crossbench peer and vice president of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, said she understood the company was “supplying performance data to the Government which suggests they are dong a good job”. But she added: “These figures come without any independent verification or audit and they tell a very different story from the complaints we are hearing daily from judges and others about the failure to provide interpreters or the sending of unqualified, inexperienced people with no experience of simultaneous interpreting and some who are simply incompetent, in one case not understanding the difference between murder and manslaughter.”

And retired senior judge Baroness Butler-Sloss, a crossbencher, 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 said the Ministry of Justice had a “massive interest in making sure Applied Language Solutions provides the quality of service for which it is contracted”.

He added: “There has been improvement and we are talking about a system where there are some 800 requests a day for such interpretation—in the first quarter of its operation some 26,000 requests in 142 languages. One has got to get complaints about performance into perspective.”


Official statistics reveal ALS performance shortfall

Thursday 24 May 2012 by Catherine Baksi

Three months into its contract to provide court interpreters Applied Language Solutions (ALS) was not meeting its performance targets, statistics published today reveal. Data provided to the Ministry of Justice by ALS, showed that from 30 January to 30 April 2012, ALS provided an interpreter in 81% of the cases where courts requested one. Its performance target was 98%.

In the first three months of the contract, there were 26,059 requests for interpreters at courts and tribunals in England and Wales, covering 142 languages. Of the initial requests, 2,825 (11%) were either cancelled by the court, or the person who made the request failed to attend. These figures are not included in the fulfillment numbers.

The figures show that the overall success rate for requests increased from 65% in February to 90% in April, with success rates varying between 58–95% for the 20 most requested languages at all courts, and between 69–94% at tribunals.

There were 2,232 complaints relating to the requests during the period. The complaints, categorised by ALS, show that 44% were due to interpreters not attending, 23% were due to “operational issues” and 3% concerned the quality of the interpreter.

Four languages—Polish, Romanian, Urdu and Lithuanian—accounted for over a third of all language requests.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We have now seen a significant and sustained improvement in performance. There are now only a tiny handful of cases each day when an interpreter job is unfilled. Disruption to court business and complaints have reduced substantially and close to 3,000 interpreters are now working under this contract. We continue to monitor the improvement on a daily basis.”

Earlier this week the solicitor general Edward Garnier QC told the House of Commons that the contract with ALS “is now running properly”. He said: “The company has got a grip on it and we can expect nothing but progress from here on.”

On Tuesday, 8 May, a trial collapsed at the beginning of the fourth week, an Applied Language Solutions (ALS) worker having been sacked on Friday. The case was being heard at Leicester Crown Court, T20117192, SARFUDIN and others. It is a three-hander case, and since three weeks have already gone by, the costs to the public purse will be very substantial, and caused solely due to incompetent interpreting. 

Interpreting error leads to £25,000 retrial costs


September 2012

Prepared 5th February 2013