In the Media

Interpreters on the cheap: a response

PUBLISHED October 26, 2011

This article is a response to Interpreters on the cheap could lead to miscarriages of justice, an article by Matthew Scott, published on The Times? website on October 6, 2011.

Matthew Scott wrote an article discussing the decision by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to appoint Applied Language Solutions (ALS) to manage all language support services within the criminal justice sector after a one-year procurement process.

The author says that the decision by the MoJ would mean that ?the courts may have to prepare themselves for a shortage of quality interpreters and the miscarriages of justice that will follow?. Many of the article?s arguments were based on inaccuracies that are in danger of obscuring the objective of the MoJ to maintain the protection of the public, given the grave professional responsibilities of legal interpreters.

First, Mr Scott maintains that under the new system, ?there will be no requirement for any [interpreters and translators] to have any other professional qualifications or experience?. This is categorically incorrect.

The public documentation found at makes it more than clear that there is an obligatory requirement that linguists must hold the appropriate professional qualifications that have also been independently verified before being considered for assessment. The underlying foundation of the new framework agreement is that there is a new obligation for linguists to meet continuous professional development (CPD) requirements, expected of every other participant in the criminal justice system.

Mr Scott also suggests that the framework agreement calls for the existing freelance public service interpreters to be replaced by ALS?s ?own? interpreters, with the company ?paying them a lower hourly rate and crucially paying no minimum fee and no travel expenses?.

This misunderstands the framework agreement on a number of levels. First, linguists are not ALS employees but are registered with a series of established professional linguist organisations including National Register of Public Service Interpreters and the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (at police and court interpreter level) and are qualified and vetted freelancers who have criminal justice experience, who have worked with the police and in courts. The role of ALS is to match the linguists to assignments in the criminal justice system.

Second, and importantly for many interpreters, ALS does pay a one-hour minimum payment fee. The company also pays travel expenses for journeys over ten miles undertaken by the linguist. This information is also readily available in the public domain and has been regularly communicated with linguists across the UK since the announcement in August.

Finally, Mr Scott alludes to a collapse of a scheme between ALS and Greater Manchester Police ?amid mutual recrimination and the threat of legal action?. The contract with the GMP did not collapse. A judicial review found that an equality impact assessment should have taken place before the contract award. This was subsequently undertaken and no negative impact on ethnic minorities could be found.

ALS continues to provide language services to the Greater Manchester Police and five other police forces in the North West of England.