Controversy Continues in the UK Legal Translation and Interpretation Community
ALS Interpreters Make Another Costly Translation Error
Another mistake in court interpreting has brought more negative publicity to Applied Language Services (ALS). ALS, a well-known interpretation service online and throughout the UK, is the sole translation service contracted by the Ministry of Justice system for legal translation services in court and other legal purposes. The MoJ has since allowed for the former system of using the National Registry of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) while problems with ALS interpreter procurement and service quality are being sorted out.
By the end of February and well in to March, a pile of court costs from expensive delays, re-trials, and much more were accumulating, directly due to the lack of consistently supplied or aptly qualified ALS interpreters and translators for court and legal translations, on short notice. Several incidents were reported where interpreters failed to show up at all for a trial or hearing.
There are dozens of reports about ALS court interpreters and government translation services, since being contracted by the MoJ:
Ongoing Controversy in Legal Translation and Interpretation Community Over the MoJ and ALS
The MoJ system of using ALS as a sole legal translation and interpretation source has resulted in a major backlash from the professional legal interpreting community, which has exploded into a major cooperative boycott of ALS by the majority of the UK's NRPSI (National Registry of Public Service Interpreters). Because of the extreme pay-cuts interpreters from the NRPSI would be forced to take under the MoJ contract with ALS, the vast majority of NRPSI interpreters have refused to work for the MoJ at all, resolving to obtain translation and interpretation work elsewhere.
ALS was contracted by the MoJ based upon its promise to cut the annual £60M translation costs by a third. This is largely being accomplished through extreme pay reductions for court interpreters. In addition to the cut from £85 per hour to £20 an hour for court interpreting, the contract initially paid nothing for travel and waiting time expenses - something ALS has recently made an addendum to by allowing £10 of travel time after the first hour of travel. They also claim to have added unspecified waiting time pay, and raised hourly pay by £5 an hour - none of which has been enough to convince any of the NRPSI professional translators and interpreters to resume court interpreting for the MoJ under the ALS contract.
The most recent event to make the news for ALS involved an interpreter of Romanian translation who made an expensive mistake in translation. During a London court trial held April 10, it a Romanian translator misinterpreted the word "beaten" as "bitten," and though reportedly recognized the mistake immediately, said nothing. This ultimately resulted in a trial suspension, dismissal of the jury, and an additional £25,000 for a retrial.
Said Dhaneshwar Sharma, the defending lawyer in the above case, which is scheduled for retrial:
"Out of all the interpreters I’ve used from ALS, there’s been just ONE good one. My clients deserve proper representation and proper interpreters."
A solicitor from Hines Solicitors, Jacqueline Ng, said,
“There’s been a lot of unnecessary delay and expense with many interpreters not turning up and trials having to be adjourned. Many of the interpreters that have come are not registered and don’t understand legal jargon.
The controversy has yet to come to a satisfactory compromise or solution for all parties involved, and is yet to be seen how the MoJ will resolve the problems within its current court and legal interpreting system.
Green, Ruth. "Interpreting Error Leads to £25,000 Retrial Costs," The Lawyer. April 17 2012. www.thelawyer.com
Green, Ruth. "Lawyers Slam Government's New Court Interpreting System," The Lawyer. February 16 2102. www.thelawyer.com