£60 million-a-year translation bill for foreign criminals

Wed, 02/11/2011 - 12:25
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Translation services across Britain’s legal system cost taxpayers £60 million a year, with £11,437 a day spent on interpreters at crown courts alone, it has been revealed. Among the most requested interpreters for defendants, witnesses and victims are Polish, Romanian, Urdu, Somali, Kurdish, Mandarin and Punjabi speakers. 

As well as the funds needed to translate for foreign nationals, huge sums are also paid to ‘settled’ immigrants who still cannot speak English. 

The money often goes towards helping defend heinous offenders such as billionaire Saudi prince Abdulaziz bin Nasser al Saud, who sadistically killed his manservant in London, and Turk Mehemt Goren, who murdered his 15-year-old daughter in a so-called honour killing.

Chinese murderer Guang Hui Cao also relied on interpreters at his trial for torturing and brutally killing a couple in Newcastle, while Jo Yeates’s killer Vincent Tabak was given a translator for part of his trial, even though he speaks fluent English.

Similarly, Bangladeshi taxi driver Zamal Uddin had an interpreter during his trial for sexual assault on a passenger despite having worked in Britain for 20 years.

Earlier this year it was revealed that police forces spent £82 million on translators in the last three years, enough to employ an extra 3,542 constables. The Metropolitan Police had the highest bill, with almost £30 million for translation services for suspects, witnesses and victims.

Court interpreters are currently paid £85 for the first three hours’ work followed by £7.50 for every additional 15 minutes.

The Ministry of Justice said it is planning on cutting interpretation costs by contracting Manchester firm Applied Language Solutions (ALS) to provide services for the next five years.

Justice secretary Kenneth Clarke has approved the move, but many professional interpreters have boycotted the firm over the quality of service it provides.

Rob Taberner, police station representative for Bolton firm Fieldings Porter, who use ALS services, told The Law Society Gazette earlier this year that people who are not properly qualified have been sent to the police station to interpret.

He said: ‘They sometimes cannot translate properly and do not understand simple legal terms, which is a fundamental part of their job.’ 

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said that by outsourcing to ALS they will 'cut interpretation costs by at least £18 million a year, whilst still ensuring high quality interpreters and translators are available to those in need'.

The British National Party proposes a £60 million saving by deporting all foreign criminals and halting immigration altogether.

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