The President of the Family Division has called the lack of court interpreters in an adoption case “unacceptable”.
Sir James Munby made these comments after the case was adjourned due to no Slovak speaking interpreters being present.
The president ordered outsourcing firm Capita to explain why neither of the two assigned interpreters had shown up to the hearing.
Capita provides business services to both the public and private sectors. Their Justice and Secure Services division is the main source of interpreters for the English and Welsh courts.
According to the Law Society Gazette, Capita had only 29 interpreters who could speak Slovak on the day of the hearing and only 13 of those were within a hundred miles of the Royal Courts of Justice. This fell short of the 39 Slovak interpreters requested by the court that day.
A spokesperson for Capita said they do not employ interpreters directly.
She added that all their interpreters are independent contractors who are free to accept or reject bookings as they see fit.
Sir James said:
“Whether the underlying causes are to be found in the nature of the contract between the MoJ and [HM Courts & Tribunals Service] or whoever and Capita, or in the nature of the contract between Capita and the interpreters it retains, or in the sums paid respectively to Capita and its interpreters, or in an inadequate supply of interpreters… I do not know. We need to find out.”
This is not the first time Capita has come under scrutiny. In January, the BBC reported that the firm experienced substantial loss of payments in penalties for its poor performance with regard to court interpreters between May 2012 and November 2013.
The report claimed that £7,229 had been ordered by judges to cover the cost of interpreters failing to show up in court when requested.
Sir James said it would have been “unjust, indeed inhumane” to continue the case without interpreters for the couple.
“Anyone tempted to suggest that an adjournment was not necessary might care to consider what our reaction would be if an English parent before a foreign court in similar circumstances was not provided with an interpreter.”
When the case returned to court, the president dismissed the parents’ application to appeal the adoption of their children.
Photo by Angélica Portales via Flickr