Justice CommitteeWritten evidence from Dev Rajasansi

There have been reported incidents of no Criminal Record Bureau checks being made before some ALS interpreters have turned up for work. Please note that Capita, ALS’s parent company, is into business process outsourcing and runs public sector databases. Is this not a conflict of interest? Capita acquired ALS soon before the national roll-out of the MoJ contract. Is this a co-incidence?

Similarly, some ALS have no suitable qualifications and experience, nor been assessed before they are sent for assignments. ALS is involved with Middlesex University in these assessments. Again, is this not conflict of interest?

There have been reported incidents of Tier 3 linguists turning up for Tier 1 cases, endangering the delivery of Justice.

A two-hour “assessment” is no substitute for the Diploma of Public Sector Interpreting (DPSI), which is the culmination of rigorous professional exams, spanning two or three years’ of intensive study. This was the original requirement before entry on to the National Register of Public Sector Interpreting (NRPSI).

A few years ago, ALS acquired the list Qualified Interpreters from the NRPSI, lock stock and barrel, which it showed to the MoJ in order to win this contract. This is in contravention of data protection legislation, as relatively few NRPSIs positively applied to join ALS, despite threats that “your career will be over if you don’t join”.

ALS employs overseas staff for call centre and personal record keeping functions, such as in India. What are the repercussions for data protection and security, if sensitive records reach terrorists or hostile regimes?

How can you use one company (ie Monopoly) for all MOJ assignments nationwide? Especially when it is a small-time company, which only recently was struggling to service police stations in the North-West? Especially when it is the Assessor, the Vetter, the Examiner and the Employer?

Is this not against the Government’s ideals of Competition, and on a broader level, the Big Society? How can the Government absolve itself of its responsibilities?

Capita acquired ALS (in December?) for £7.5 million before the Contract was rolled out nationwide. Was the Government aware of this intention when the MOJ was negotiating with ALS?

In summary, this situation is arising because the majority of Qualified NRPSI Interpreters are flatly refusing to work for the Framework Agreement, and the whole saga seems to have gone well beyond “teething problems”.

Applied Language is not providing Solutions! (Just Confusions!)

Please refer to linguistlounge.org, which is a handy summary of hundreds of incidents which have taken place across the country since the contract was rolled out on 1 February 2012.

This website highlights numerous incidents of late attendance and non-attendance, which have led to adjournments and collapsed trials. This in turn has resulted in the following:

Failure in delivering justice. Dangerous suspects have been released into the open. Other defendants have been remanded in custody due to no fault of their own. Victims and witnesses have been sent away and asked to return at a later date.

Escalation in costs. Precious time of Judges and Barristers is being wasted waiting for the long-expected ALS linguist. Solicitors are applying for Wasted Court Orders and busy court staff are being inconvenienced. Additional prison costs are being borne due to defendants having to be sent back to prison from courts and police stations. Witnesses, defendants, police officers and professional expert witnesses have to take more time off work so as to return to court.

As you may be aware from press coverage, the following has taken place:

ALS often cannot find linguists local to an assignment, and are then compelled to find them from further afield:

Reported incidents include Belfast to East Midlands (£389.20 air fare!); Newcastle to Suffolk (560 miles); Manchester to Aylesbury(round trip 340 miles); Stirling to Bradford (440 miles); Winchester to Liverpool (470 miles); Birmingham to Peterborough (only 170 miles); Stirling to Cornwall (1,100 miles!)

Solicitors are applying for wasted Cost Orders (£885—London 2/3/12).

ALS Representatives are being called to explain repeated non-attendance by Crown Court Judges, but they are not attending! (eg Luton 22/3/12); Judge demands written explanation from ALS (Bolton 14/3/12).

Defendant reportedly threatened to kill himself, and start hunger strike (Derbyshire 29/2/12).

Court has to release Suspect as no ALS interpreter when “custody clock” expired (York 2/3/12).

Mentally unstable detainees released on bail, one rearrested (Lincoln PS 11/2/12).

10 interpreters missing from York House, Hatton Cross, per RIG Barristers on 9/3/12.

Repeated non-attendance and defendant reportedly turns out to be ex-ALS linguist (Preston 28/2/12).

Cases are being often adjourned. Defendant couldn’t plea until fifth time (eg Chelmsford 19/3/12).

Attorney General—Judges or Magistrates could potentially take action against interpreters.

Abu Qatada hearing delayed by lack of interpreter (Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC hearing, London 17/4/12).

Four-day trial collapses due to interpreting error, retrial costing £25,000 (Snaresbrook 13/4/12).

Staff and ALS translator failings in cell death ordeal (Coroners hearing Preston 16/4/12).

September 2012

Prepared 5th February 2013