Friday, 30 May 2014

Cost cutting doesn’t always translate into savings

The Justice Department’s attempts to save £15m in translators fees by outsourcing translation services to a private firm has been heavily criticised by the Justice Select Committee. The Committee Chair, Sir Alan Bleith, went so far as to describe the Justice Department’s handling of the outsourcing as “nothing short of shambolic.”

The Daily Mail reports that, in some court hearings, the appointed translators do not speak the language required, or speak it very poorly. In some instances, translators have failed to show up entirely.

The Justice Committee report noted that the contracted firm, Applied Language Solutions (now Capita Translation and Interpreting), had been unable to recruit sufficient qualified interpreters, and that this has led to “hearings being adjourned or severely delayed and, in criminal cases, unnecessary remands into custody with potential implications for the interests of justice.”

The changes to the provision of translation services were an attempt to save the Justice Department money. However, as with many of the Justice Department’s cuts, the effect has been the straining resources elsewhere in the system.

Court proceedings are taking longer, costing the taxpayer more in terms of staff costs, barrister fees, solicitors, and expert witness fees. Criminal defendants are being remanded in custody unnecessarily, increasing the costs in terms of imprisonment.

Providing proper translation services is vital for UK justice. The government needs to invest in order to provide this service adequately, or risk the integrity and reputation of the UK justice system; one of the UK’s key assets when it comes to attracting foreign investment.

We appreciate the need for responsible management of the Department’s budget; however, if it fails to provide a competent service, the cuts in costs may ultimately drive up expenditure overall. 

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