Applied Language Solutions (ALS), the gaffe-prone interpreting service awarded the exclusive right to supply interpreters to courts in England and Wales, faces two high-profile hearings in the next ten days in which its £300m five-year contract with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will come under scrutiny.
At the first one, to be held at 3.15pm today in front of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, the Capita-owned company – which has recently been re-branded as Capita Translation and Interpreting – will be asked to explain "shocking failings", including apparently inviting a rabbit and a cat for "interpreter assessments" and offering a dead dog an "immediate assignment in court".
Next Tuesday, ALS will face a further hearing before the House of Commons Justice Select Committee, in which interpreters’ organisations will put forward their complaints against the company.
ALS’s relaxed approach to recruitment relates to the need it has faced to up headcount after many interpreters refused to sign up to the much lower pay rates and travel expenses the company has offered since it snagged the MoJ deal. Staggeringly, ALS has failed to supply interpreters in between 10-19% of cases, causing chaos in the court system.
Earlier this month Judge Francis Sheridan slammed the company for two recent no-shows, including one where an interpreter excused himself from a Monday hearing he was booked to appear at by sending a note, on Saturday, which read: "Busy that day, have a nice week-end."
"Obviously ALS entered a contract knowing they cannot deliver the goods," Judge Sheridan said at Amersham Crown Court. "There are similar incidences and hearings like this going on in other courts and ALS comes up with a different story every time. Yet you (ALS) cheekily send a bill." He added that "somebody has got to make a stand, this cannot continue – it is in the public’s interest."
Other recent ALS highlights flagged up by campaign group Interpreters for Justice include an incident at Boston Magistrates Court last Monday, where a Lithuanian defendant was sent home from court for the fourth time in succession because there was no interpreter.
The company's hearing today will be live on parliament.uk at 3.15pm.