Justice CommitteeSupplementary evidence from the Chartered Institute of Linguists following the evidence session on 30 October 2012

The NRPSI was run under the auspices of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) until April 2011, when it underwent a planned change to become an independent voluntary regulated body.

The Chartered Institute of Linguists wishes to take the opportunity to clarify some errors of fact and misunderstandings which arose during the Justice Select Committee hearings.

1. Anne Beasley stated that some criminal justice services were using out-of-date paper copies of the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI).

A subscription system was initially used for NRPSI, to cover costs, and regularly up-dated. If CJS agencies had allowed their subscription to lapse, they should not have been using out-dated copies of the Register which, by definition, would be unsatisfactory.
(Note. Since the organisational change, in April 2011, NRPSI has been freely accessible on-line.)

2. There was some confusion in the hearing regarding a code of conduct and disciplinary proceedings.

The NRPSI has always had a strict code of conduct binding on the registered interpreters, accompanied by Disciplinary Procedures to deal with instances where breaches of the code are alleged. Mr Sangster made clear that this is the situation with the NRPSI now.

The CIOL would like to remove any doubt that this was the case previously, and has always been the case. The code of conduct and the disciplinary procedures were (and are) published on the NRPSI web-site.

Reference was made in the hearings to the “simple” removal of an interpreter from the list, in the present arrangements. It was not clear where the authority for that lies, with the MoJ or with Capita; the discussion was quite confused.

It will be understood that a voluntary regulatory body cannot, according to legal advice taken, suspend Registrants until the due process of the disciplinary procedures is completed. This can take some time, particularly where written evidence from members of the judiciary and others must be gathered.

Furthermore, currently, even if Capita suspended an interpreter from their list, that interpreter would still be free to take work from elsewhere, including within the justice system. This is one of the factors motivating NRPSI to acquire statutory regulatory status.

3. There appears to be confusion between an independent national professional register (which was intended by the European Directive in principle but future legislation is anticipated to clarify that explicitly) and a “list” kept by a commercial company. There seems also to be confusion concerning who “owns” the list built and operated by Capita; in the Public Accounts Committee hearings Mr Handcock stated that the MoJ owns the list. It would be helpful if this could be precisely specified. It is worth noting that the concept of a ministry “owning” a professional register goes counter to practice in the UK.

4. There was also apparent uncertainty as to whether the aim of the contract is merely to act as a booking system or to provide a quality of service, which includes monitoring the quality of interpreting and managing regulatory aspects as well as the logistics. It is, we believe, fundamentally important to define these functions, and to maintain the appropriate clear distinction between them.

It was most unfortunate that a funding proposal, prepared by a multi-disciplinary team, and submitted in 2002–03 by the CJS Interpreting Working Group (IWG) was rejected. It was stated that no government money would be spent on this. The submission asked for £64 million tapering funding over five years to establish regional not-for-profit units, working under strict national guidelines, to administer not only 24/7 contact systems but also to act as focuses for growth in terms of, for example, training towards incremental levels of nationally recognised examinations, CPD, data collection, mentoring, monitoring and liaison. While this is water under the bridge, the ideas would be worth revisiting.

5. Reference was made to the lack of management information concerning the demand for interpreting in the justice system by language and geographical area.

It is true that the MoJ has not maintained a national and consistent statistical record of demand over the years. Progress on data collection in this area was made by the IWG, although the outcomes will be out of date by now. It has been written about in UK and in the EU projects and was included in the information handed on to the Ministry and the OGC.

It will be obvious, and was clearly perceived by the Committee, that a “finger in the wind” estimate, with no data behind it, and apparently no attempt to seek data (for example from NRPSI), is totally inadequate.

November 2012

Prepared 5th February 2013