Cat registered to work as court interpreter

Legal News | 9 August 2012

Translation services firm invited Masha for language assessment

A cat called Masha has been registered to work as a court interpreter, the BBC claimed today.

In an investigation into Applied Language Solutions, which has a contract with the MoJ to provide interpreting services to courts in England and Wales, the broadcaster highlighted cases where interpreters were not asked for criminal record checks.

In one case the projects director of Talk Russian UK, Neil McCafferty, said he registered his cat Masha with ALS.

“We signed her up for the rare cat language,” McCafferty said. “We were absolutely staggered to start receiving emails from the company suggesting we take Masha the cat for a language assessment.”

Later this year, McCafferty registered again in his own name. Despite having no qualifications or CRB check, he said he was offered work.

The Ministry of Justice told the BBC told that interpreters must be vetted to the minimum level of an enhanced CRB check.

“It is contractor’s responsibility to make sure that they meet this requirement,” a spokesman said. “We keep this and other contractual matters under scrutiny.”

Data released by the MoJ in May showed that from 30 January to 30 April 2012, ALS provided an interpreter in 81 per cent of the cases where the courts requested one. The target was 98 per cent.

There were 2,232 complaints during the period, almost half caused by interpreters not attending court.

Last month justice minister Lord McNally admitted that £12m of savings predicted for the first year of the new contract would “probably not be achieved”.

McNally admitted to the House of Lords that the contract had a “very poor start” but said appointing ALS was a long-term solution that the government hoped would deliver the service and quality required once it had bedded down.

A spokeswoman for ALS said all interpreters were required to have in place a Criminal Records Bureau enhanced disclosure certificate.

"If ALS finds interpreters without the appropriate information it will remove them from the register until this information is obtained.

"If the BBC is aware of any interpreters working without the necessary information and is prepared to provide specifics, ALS will investigate and suspend or remove such interpreters, if appropriate."

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