A Crown court judge asked a defence barrister to trawl the Chinese restaurants of Cardiff to find an interpreter, after the private company contracted to provide translators failed to do so on two occasions.

The Gazette learned of the request as the Ministry of Justice published the latest performance figures for the contract provided by outsourcer Capita.

The statistics for the first three months of 2014 show a rise in the number of requests fulfilled, although the figure continues to fall short of the 98% contractual performance target.

The number of requests for an interpreter rose to 45,100 - the highest since the contract began in January 2012.

The percentage of requests completed rose by 4% from the last quarter of 2013 - to 94.5% - equal to the previous peak in the third quarter of 2012.

That means there were still 2,480 cases disrupted due to the lack of an interpreter.

At no point since the contract began has Capita reached the 98% performance target.

The data shows the overall number of complaints about the service have fallen to the lowest number since the contract began.

There were 1,000 (2.2% of cases) complaints, down by 21% from the 1,200 in the last three months of 2013 and a 54% fall compared to the 2,100 complaints made in the first quarter of 2013.

There were 400 (45% of complaints) complaints due to no interpreter being available - down from 1,200 in the same period of 2013.

But the figures show a marked rise in the number of cases where an interpreter arrived late - 300 complaints, compared to 200 in the first quarter of 2013.

Off-contract bookings, where courts did not use Capita interpreters but contacted them privately, dropped to 700, compared to 900 in the last three months of 2013.

Meanwhile the Gazette learned that His Honour Judge Burr, sitting at Cardiff Crown Court (pictured), asked a defence barrister to trawl the Chinese restaurants of the city to find a Chinese interpreter, after adjourning two hearings for want of an interpreter.

The case involved a defendant failing to attend court over a year ago in relation to an allegation that she had illegally imported rhinoceros tusks.

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