‘Total chaos’ in Cambridgeshire courts due to private interpreter firm

CAMBRIDGESHIRE courts were left in “chaos” when a private contractor failed to provide adequate numbers of interpreters for defendants at trials and other legal hearings, a Parliamentary committee has ruled.

Cases had to be delayed, postponed and abandoned because Applied Language Services (ALS) only had 280 properly assessed interpreters ready for use across the UK when the courts required 1,200.

“The result was total chaos,” Public Accounts Committee chairman Margaret Hodge said. “Court officials have had to scramble to find qualified interpreters at short notice, individuals have been kept on remand solely because no interpreter was available and the quality of interpreters has at times been appalling.”

However, Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly, who was Justice Minister at the time ALS was awarded the annual �42million contract, said the situation had improved dramatically in recent months.

“They’ve got the contract and a decision was taken earlier in the summer to let them run with it rather than end it,” he said. “We have now got to make sure it works.”

He acknowledged it was “very annoying to courts when they have interpreters booked who don’t show or aren’t up to the job” and said providing interpreters for some nationalities had been more problematic than others

He said: “The last time I’d seen figures on it, they’d sorted it out in most areas.”

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Paul Bullen, a Huntingdon magistrate he resigned before standing as the UKIP candidate in this year’s Police and Crime Commissioner election, said there were “numerous times when we’ve had to abandon cases” due to failings with interpreters.