Justice CommitteeWritten evidence from The Reverend Michael J Slade

Last Friday (31 August 2012, I attended North Shields Country Court, Tyne and Wear, to support an asylum seeker (I’ll call him AA here) on his appeal for leave to stay in the UK. In attendance were three parishioners of mine (one of whom has been heavily involved and supportive of AAs application), AAs barrister from Manchester, and a former MP from his country who lives in London and who had travelled by train to support him that day.

Although this date had been in our diaries for several months it soon became clear that the interpreter that has been requested of Applied Language Solutions Capita (ALS) was not in attendance. Court staff checked with ALS and were told that one would be coming.

The judge asked us all to come into court where she apologised for the inconvenience and considerable cost we (the attenders) had been put to by the failure of ALS to do what they had been contracted to do. It became clear that this was not a one off event. The judge and court official then had a conversation about ALS’s likelihood of providing for an interpreter for the new date of 12 October and I left with considerable doubts whether they would be able to achieve this.

There were costs involved from the public purse here: a Home Office barrister sat there twiddling his thumbs and the wasted court time. In addition there is the emotional cost: yet further stress, sleepless nights and worry as we all have to go through this again in a few weeks’ time, with the possibility that once again an interpreter will not be found.

Since then I have become aware that this is far from an isolated case. Clearly this state of affairs is completely unacceptable and seems to me to be the direct result of government policy of trying to fix something that ain’t broke and appointing a company that does not reach even the most basic standard of service, whereas before it seems the system worked perfectly well.

September 2012

Prepared 5th February 2013