A Cardiff Crown Court judge, due to the failure of outsourcing company Capita to provide a Mandarin interpreter, told the defense barrister to find an interpreter from a Chinese takeout restaurant in Wales. This is just one of several issues that have plagued the Welsh courts since the privatization of the interpreter service. There is an ongoing controversy in the city as Capita has failed to provide an interpreter on several occasions.
Thrown into a different light
Countless times, Chinese takeout restaurants have been very useful to junior associates and trainees in the legal profession who work all night at numerous law firms in the city and relied on them for food deliveries well into the night. But the latest happening put them in a different light.
Judge Burr was presiding over the trial of one Liu Sun who was charged with importation of prohibited goods. She denied the charges. Capita was to provide a courtroom interpreter during the trial but it failed to do so. The judge had to adjourn the trial because Capita was not able to provide a Mandarin interpreter. The trial was moved for the following day. But Capita failed to send an interpreter once again. The judge then asked the defense barrister to find someone well-versed in Mandarin from the local Chinese restaurants in Cardiff to act as interpreter. Although the barrister declined to carry out the judge’s request, it was a glaring issue. An interpreter was provided on the third time that the trial was scheduled.
Privatization of courtroom interpreting services
The Welsh government decided that courtroom interpreting services should be privatized and outsourcing giant Capita won the contract. But it seems that the company has failed to send a court interpreter not only during the trial of Liu Sun but on several occasions already.
According to newspaper reports, Capita has claimed that there was no unrealized booking for a defendant named Liu Sun for that day at the Cardiff Crown Court. The company spokesperson said that on the second day they had an interpreter assigned but the court booked it at the wrong time and the interpreter was unable to make it.
A UK newspaper, The Mirror, claimed that according to official figures, about 2,500 cases were interrupted in the first three months of 2014 because suitable interpreters were not available. The same report claimed that the interpreter contract awarded to Capita was worth £18 million, yet the company has never met its obligation to assign interpreters in about 98% of the cases. The latest case was similar to the July 15 trial of Liu Guiying, which had to be adjourned because no Mandarin interpreter was provided.
The opposition says that this is just one of the thousands of cases that have been abandoned or delayed since the Welsh government privatized the service for court interpreters two years ago. There were several instances when the interpreters did not show up or they turned up late.
Despite these occurrences, the government insists that the privatization has saved Welsh taxpayers some £27 million since 2012.