Murder trial halted as stand-in
translator caught out

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A murder trial was halted for a day because an unqualified interpreter – filling in for his wife – could not accurately translate questions from a barrister.

The man turned up at Winchester Crown Court 45 minutes late and concerns were raised after 30 minutes that he was not translating questions into Punjabi properly for a key witness during the trial of mother-of-two Rajvinder Kaur.

He later revealed that the booked interpreter – his wife – was busy and he had come to do her job. He said that he had taken the ALS interpreter test but not received his results.

The judge, Mr Justice Burnett, was forced to halt the trial last Friday, but a similar event happened the following Monday when a female interpreter turned up and was not able to correctly translate evidence.

The court was able to carrying on sitting with help from Kaur’s junior counsel Sukhdev Garcha, who speaks Punjabi and who had raised concerns in both cases.

Both translators were supplied by Applied Language Solutions (ALS) which won given a Government contract to supply translators to courts, but has been heavily criticised after stories of translators failed to arrive for trials or were unable to accurately interpret proceedings.

Kaur, 37, was yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment and told she would serve a minimum term of 11 years for battering her mother-in-law Baljit Kaur Buttar to death with a rolling pin at her home in Southampton last February.

In a brief statement, ALS said it would not comment on individual cases.

“Any complaints received about interpreters are investigated thoroughly and, where necessary, the interpreter is suspended from working with ALS until the investigation is complete.

“At that point ALS will either remove them from its register, reinstate them or provide further training, as appropriate,” it said.

ALS has claimed its contract, which started formally on February 1, would save the Government £60m over five years.

But many interpreters said they had boycotted the company because its low rates of pay, claiming that led to a struggle by ALS to recruit translators, and prompting the use of untrained people in courts.

The company is being monitored daily after failing to meet targets.

It was eight per cent off target from January to April this year, prompting action from the Ministry of Justice.