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Courts and Tribunals: Interpreters

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 156384, tabled on 22 February 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what safeguards his Department has put in place to ensure that interpreters used in court and tribunal hearings are qualified to undertake the role.

Answered on

25 February 2021

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is committed to ensuring the justice system is supported by a suite of high-quality language service contracts, that meet the needs of all those that require them.

The MoJ does not directly employ interpreters. We commission the services of suitably qualified interpreters through contracted service providers, thebigword and Clarion Interpreting.

Detailed guidance and training modules are provided to courts and tribunals staff responsible for booking interpreters through the MoJ’s Language Services to ensure they follow the correct processes and book suitably qualified interpreters.

Interpreters provided by our contracted language service providers are sourced from the MoJ’s register. Only interpreters that meet the department’s contractual requirements are included on the register, which is managed and audited by an independent language service provider.

The MoJ regularly reviews the level of unfulfilled bookings, which may result in the use of interpreters not sourced from the departmental register, to identify trends and to require remedial action to be taken where appropriate. Fulfilment of bookings remains consistent at circa 97%, with the main reason for unfulfillment being short notice bookings of a rare language requirement.

The contract has a clearly defined list of qualifications, skills, experience and vetting requirements interpreters must meet, which have been designed to meet the needs of the justice system. All interpreters are also required to complete a justice system specific training course before they are permitted to join the MoJ’s interpreter register.

The contract sets out the minimum level of qualification and experience a language professional is required to have in order to work on each complexity level of booking. Details of these qualifications can be found at: https://www.contractsfinder.service.gov.uk/Notice/975cb99e-fec6-430f-8f31-fd532a907137

The MoJ’s contracted service provider is required to hold evidence of these credentials, which are subject to an additional safeguard in the form of an annual audit conducted by the department’s contracted provider of independent language service quality assurance, The Language Shop (part of the London Borough of Newham).

The Language Shop make regular and independent assessments of interpreters carrying out assignments via the MoJ’s language services contracts. This includes a check of the qualifications held by the interpreter to ensure they meet the requirements of the contract between the department and the supplier.

Complaints about the quality of interpreting or professional conduct are referred to The Language Shop for independent assessment. Interpreters are suspended from the MoJ register pending the outcome and are not reinstated unless The Language Shop confirms that the requisite standards have been met.

The complaint rate is monitored closely as part of robust contract governance processes. The rate remains low at less than 1%, which suggests there is no systemic issue with the quality of interpreting provided.

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