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The Ministry of Justice yesterday published their latest statistics on legal interpreting – in courts and tribunals. The interpreting contract is held by Capita, who were awarded it in 2012.

Most popular languages:

In 2015, 90% (137,600) of all completed service requests were for standard languages,
8% (12,600) were for rare languages and 2% (3,300) were for special services.

Criminal court interpreting calls:

Polish: 22% (19,000)

Romanian: 14% (11,900)

Lithuanian: 8% (7,000)

Interpreters in tribunals:

Urdu: 10% (4,600)

Arabic – all variants: 8% (3,700)

Punjabi – all variants: 7% (3,100)

Interpreters in civil and family courts:

Polish: 18% (3,400)

Urdu: 12% (2,400)

Punjabi – all variants: 6% (1,200)

Current provision of legal interpreting services

Capita’s legal interpreting contract started badly, as they angered interpreters by cutting their travelling expenses. In the first year of the contract they were unable to answer many calls for interpreters as a large proportion refused to register with them

Since then the percentage of successful interpreter calls has crept up according to yesterday’s official statistics. “The overall success rate for completed service requests for language interpreter and translation services has increased steadily from 86% in early 2013 to 95% in 2014 and 97% in 2015. The success rate in the latest quarter, Q4 2015, was 98%” says the report.

However, professional interpreter organisations say that the official figures are very misleading. They claim that Capita cannot fulfill a large number of calls and that Court clerks are contacting interpreters directly. Justice Minister Shailesh Vara admitted that Capita have had to pay penalties or “service credits” for missing calls 44 times. The firm has decided to bid only for 1 of 4 interpreting lots in the next round, starting in October. They are pitching for Lot 2, Written translation and transcription and are not bidding for the others.

The future for legal interpreting

Minister Vara seems happy, saying “Since we introduced a new interpreting contract in 2012, we have spent £38m less on language service fees.” However, at la Academia many of our team have experience of legal interpreting, and we feel that cost should not be the only factor.  If the interpreting system is failing witnesses, victims and offenders then our justice system suffers. Ensuring justice is done and seen to be done is important, and we hope the government will consider these aims as well as cost when they appoint new providers.

We will keep you updated on what happens – please let us know your experiences of court interpreting via social media or email.