Outsourcing firm Capita is responsible for ‘serial failures’ in the family courts, a senior Judge has declared.
President of the Family Division Sir James Munby has ordered Capita to pay a fine of just under £16,000 to Kent County Council, branding the company’s failure to provide interpreters seven times during a single adoption case “lamentable”.
In Re Capita Translation and Interpretation Limited, a couple had applied for permission to appeal adoption orders made for two of their children, boys referred to as ‘J’ and ‘S’. Their parents were Roma (Romani) from the Slovak Republic who had been brought to the UK by traffickers. They sought leave to oppose the adoption of J and S because they were to be adopted by a same sex couple, which they saw as incompatible with their Catholic faith.
Sir James Munby described the case as “sad” but refused the couple permission to appeal, saying their religious objections to the adopting couple did not constitute a valid objection under the Adoption and Children Act 2002.
The parents had a limited command of English and required assistance from Slovak interpreters during the proceedings. Slovak is a Slavic language closely related to Czech. However, interpreters provided by Capita either failed to attend court or arrived late on no less than six occasions during initial hearings at the family proceedings court in Dover. On each occasion, the hearings had to be abandoned.
The case was then transferred to the High Court and the Capita’s interpreters failed to arrive on a seventh occasion. The President had to adjourn the hearing and instead order HM Courts and Tribunal Service to supply interpreters instead.
Sir James declared:
“It would have been unjust, indeed inhumane, to continue with the final hearing of applications as significant as those before me – this, after all, was their final opportunity to prevent the adoption of their children – if the parents were unable to understand what was being said.”
The fine he has now opposed on Capita is believed to be the largest ever imposed on the sometimes controversial company’s interpretation service.
The judgement is available here.