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Police translation costs

There are a lot of different languages and cultures in the UK and translation in health, public sector and police situations is needed. The increasing cost of providing this service has become an issue in Nottinghamshire, where one of the candidates to become Police and Crime Commissioner has complained that the cost of providing police translations went up £82,000 in 2 years to a total of £466,701 for 2014-15.

This cost covered translating over 50 different languages, from community languages such as Urdu, Chinese and Polish to Amharic, an Ethiopian Language, and Wolof, from West Africa. The candidate was making a political point about cost as part of his campaign, however as the Law Society points out the Equality Act of 2010 requires authorities to provide translation/ interpretation where a witness, defendant or suspect “has difficulty understanding or expressing themselves in English, in particular formal legal language”. The same provision is made for deaf people, where use of a sign language interpreter is advised. The provision of assistance to witnesses, suspects and defendants to enable them to give their evidence clearly or defend themselves is a basic civil right.

Why do we need police translation?

The Crown Prosecution Service says that a Witness statement taken from a person who has difficulty in speaking or understanding English should be written down in the foreign language and signed by the witness, which means that an interpreter in a police station has to interpret the witness’s words, so the police officer can understand their words, and then provide a statement in their native language.  This takes time, and there is a cost.

How can we cut Police Translation costs?

The candidate feels “efficiencies can be made.” Does he think these should be:

  • By refusing to provide interpreting and translation for witnesses, suspects and defendants?
  • By cutting the fees to interpreters and translators?
  • By outsourcing the interpreting and translation service to the private sector? Oh, no sorry – that’s already been done. The days when Police Services ran their own translation services in-house are long gone, and grumbles about rising costs have been growing ever since.

The Metropolitan Police recently required potential recruits to show they could speak another language – that may cut some of the need for phone call translation, but for proper interpreting and recording of statements in a police station a professional will still be required. Cutting translation costs makes a nice sound bite, but it’s not so easy to resolve.

Here in Stockport, Manchester and the North West Accutranslate continues to provide Interpreters and translators at a reasonable cost – you know where to come if you want public sector language services!