Judge demands answers from court interpreter suppliers

Judge Nic Madge, who ordered interpreter supply services to attend court. Photo: Rowland Hobson

Judge Nic Madge, who ordered interpreter supply services to attend court. Photo: Rowland Hobson

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A crown court judge has hit out at interpreting services after an interpreter cancelled a booking just hours before a hearing was due to start.

Judge Nic Madge ordered representatives of Applied Language Solutions (ALS) to attend Peterborough Crown Court on Friday to explain why a Lithuanian interpreter did not turn up for a hearing she was booked to attend on July 2.

He said if it was found that ALS were guilty of serious misconduct by not supplying an interpreter, he would order them to pay the “wasted” costs of £200 from the cancelled hearing.

ALS have a contract with The Ministry of Justice to supply interpreters for court hearings across the country.

Laura Mackinnon, representing ALS, said: “At 1.19pm on June 29 the request for the hearing on July 2 at 10am was made.

“At 1.38pm an offer was accepted by Zivlle Lebeikiele, a Lithuanian interpreter. Nothing was heard from her by ALS until 6.18am on July 2, when she telephoned ALS to say she was double booked and could not attend.

“She had accepted three other jobs through a separate arm of ALS.

“She had accepted a job at 7.30am on July 2 on June 21, a 10am start on July 2 on June 25 and an 11am job on July 2 on May 30, all with NHS Peterborough. There is no link between the two booking systems.”

Ms Mackinnon said after ALS received the call from Mrs Lebeikiele they made a number of calls, emails and text messages to find another interpreter but were unable to.

The court heard that Mrs Lebeikiele has been given a warning by ALS and an internal investigation is taking place.

She also said systems were being looked at to try and ensure there were no more double bookings.

Ms Mackinnon added: “In this instance ALS have not acted with serious misconduct. The booking was filled and ALS had no reason to believe an interpreter could not attend until 6.18am. They then acted with diligence to try and find a replacement.”

But Judge Madge said: “I am afraid to say there have been serious problems in this court, and others, with the provision of interpreters by ALS.”

He invited ALS to present written submissions to the court about their position within the next 14 days.

An ALS representative at the hearing refused to comment. Mrs Lebeikiele was not present at the court hearing.

Concerns raised by District Judge

Judge Madge is not the first judge in the city to critisise ALS.

In February District Judge Ken Sheraton, who sits at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court, also raised concerns and spoke of his frustration after a case had to be adjourned because an interpreter did not turn up.

He said: “This is far from being the only case affected by this and I understand it is happening across the country.”

Should the interpreter or Als pay costs for cancelled court hearings?

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