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Police Interpreting

Volume 492: debated on Friday 8 May 2009

The Petition of persons concerned at the treatment of nationally registered interpreters,

Declares that the Greater Manchester Police are currently considering outsourcing provision of face-to-face interpreters to a commercial intermediary; further declares that registered interpreters are not prepared to work for an intermediary and that Greater Manchester Police would no longer be able to obtain their services should they outsource;

Notes that data obtained pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 show that outsourcing can lead to the use of persons purporting to be interpreters who are not on the National Register (which is stipulated as the first port of call by the Office for Criminal Justice Reform) or any of the other lists authorised by the National Agreement;

Believes that competent, vetted and professional interpreters are an integral part of the Criminal Justice System, ensuring a just and fair delivery of justice; further believes that taxpayers are entitled to see their money spent on a high quality service which will aid the administration of justice for ethnic minorities.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Home Secretary to do all in her power to persuade Greater Manchester Police to treat the profession with the respect it deserves and to include registered interpreters in any future consultations which may affect their livelihoods and profession; the petitioner further requests that the House of Commons urges the Home Secretary to intervene where police forces do not abide by the terms of the National Agreement.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr. John Leech, Official Report, 9 March 2009; Vol. 489, c. 127.]


Observations from the Secretary of State for the Home Department:

The Code of Practice C for the detention, treatment, and questioning of persons by police officers, issued under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE) 1984, provides that the chief police officer for the individual force concerned is responsible for making sure that appropriate arrangements are in place for the provision of suitably qualified interpreters for people who are deaf or who do not understand or speak English. The Code states that, wherever possible, interpreters should be drawn from the National Register of Public Service Interprets (NRPSI).

The National Agreement on Arrangements for the Use of Interpreters and Translators in the Criminal Justice System indicates that an interpreter must be used from the National Register, where possible.

The Association of Chief Police Officers wrote to all chief officers in April 2008 reminding them that they should follow the National Agreement and the benefits of using an interpreter from the NRPSI. The letter further advised that any forces considering or which already outsourcing interpreting service must ensure that the outsourcing process does not compromise compliance with the standards set out in the National Agreement.

Chief Officers are required to achieve value for money and to ensure compliance with rights and safeguards for the individual as set out in legislation. The Government understands that ACPO consider that there is no evidence to support the claim that these rights and safeguards are not being delivered.

The Government is also informed that ACPO has the utmost respect for interpreters who are drawn from the NRPSI. The issues around outsourcing are about availability of interpreters and timeliness of their arrival at the police station. These are issues which will be looked at with colleagues, stakeholders and practitioners in the criminal justice system.