The first evidence session of the Justice Select Committee’s inquiry into the interpreting and translation services provided by Applied Language Solutions (ALS) took place this week (October 23rd).

During the session, the court heard that ALS – which has now been taken over by Capita – had only sourced and supplied an interpreter for 58 per cent of court hearings in February, against a 98 per cent target. Evidence was also heard of court cases being delayed or cancelled due to a lack of interpreter.

Some defendants even had to spend longer remanded in prison awaiting trial because of the fiasco, while there were complaints that witness testimony was not being correctly interpreted. As a result, some of those called to give evidence to the Select Committee warned that justice was being put at risk.

The Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) multimillion pound five-year contract was rolled out across all courts in England and Wales in January. However, translation and interpreting industry professionals claimed at the hearing that many qualified interpreters were unable to take on jobs in court as the pay being offered was too low. More than one witness described the contract as “unsalvageable”.

A spokesperson for the MoJ insisted the service was showing signs of improvement, and that by the summer more than 95 per cent of bookings were being filled. They claimed that complaints had also dropped.

Back in February, we told you what we thought of this court interpreting agreement on our blog.

In our opinion, the court interpreting contract between the MoJ and ALS was doomed to fail from the start. But this does not mean that the motivation behind the contract agreement was wrong, or that it cannot be salvaged.

Without the support of the Professional Interpreters Alliance, there were always going to be difficulties for ALS. However, we understand the MoJ’s attraction to outsourcing its interpreting and translation services. The problem is that in this instance, interpreters don’t appear to have got a fair deal.

The inquiry continues and the Justice Committee is currently asking for anyone who has had a direct experience of ALS’ courtroom interpreting and translation services to submit their comments through its online forum. You can share your comments from November 2nd, but until then we would like to know what you think about the contract.

Let us know below.