Judge lost for words as trial halted over lack of interpreter

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a JUDGE has criticised a new cost-cutting language translation scheme recently introduced in the courts after he had to halt a trial because no interpreter was provided.

Judge Robert Bartfield yesterday apologised to those affected in the case of a Czech man at Leeds Crown Court, describing it as inexcusable.

“Apart from the waste of time for the jurors, the distress caused to witnesses and the defendant himself, the cost of this now aborted trial is likely to run into thousands of pounds,” he said.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has awarded a contract to supply interpreters to one agency, Applied Language Solutions (ALS) Ltd.

Judge Bartfield said he understood that was on the basis the firm offered economic rates but commented: “The attempt to show a saving of a few pounds has led to an entire hearing going up in smoke.”

An MoJ spokesperson said it was working with ALS to closely monitor the operation of the new contract.

“The Government is determined to ensure that taxpayers get value for money across the whole of the justice system.

“This new contract will save at least £18m a year on the cost of interpretation and translation, a reduction of almost a third, but will ensure that high-quality interpreters and translators are still available to those in need.”

A spokesperson for ALS said the agency did not comment on individual cases but would investigate any complaints and make improvements as necessary.