Today Marta Stelmaszak is reporting from the seminar “Justice Interpreting: the Need for Quality Standards” held in London on 23 February last (see here). Marta is a Polish translator and interpreter from the UK and is “devoted to constant development”, including through her involvement on the Management Committee of the Chartered Institute of Linguists and her great blog. Over to you, Marta!
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When the event was first announced, the level of interest was higher than the organisers expected, to the point that a whole new venue had to be arranged. This, in itself, is already symptomatic: the campaign against outsourcing of legal interpreting in the UK unites, motivates, and continues to grow in numbers.
The seminar was organised by the Professional Interpreters for Justice steering committee almost exactly one year after the campaign started, gathering not only interpreters, but also representatives of professional organisations: APCI (Geoffrey Buckingham), CIOL (Keith Moffitt), ITI (Paul Wilson), NRPSI (Lalia White), NUPIT (Amelia Naranjo), PIA (Madeleine Lee), SOMI (Klasiena Slaney), SPSI (Guillermo Makin), and WITS (Tony Wilcox). Again, this shows unprecedented unity in a profession that now stands strong fighting for a common goal.
In the first part of the seminar, the whole past year of campaigning was summarised, starting with the national rollout of the infamous Framework Agreement (FWA) on 30 January 2012. As pointed out during the seminar, the majority of Registered Public Service Interpreters did not want to work for Applied Language Solutions (now Capita TI) not only because of low rates of pay, but because of principles, standards, and quality.
In the last 12 months the campaign included:
- Demonstration in Birmingham in March 2012
- Demonstration in London in April 2012
- National Audit Office report
- Public Accounts Committee inquiry
- Justice Select Committee enquiry
- Meetings with the Ministry of Justice.
At the same time as these political actions were undertaken, the campaign was strong on PR. A representative from Involvis, the company responsible for campaign PR, talked about surveys among interpreters and their results. The first survey in September 2011 – “A fair deal for interpreters” – went unnoticed, although some of the recommendations were then picked up again by the Justice Select Committee.
The most recent survey, conducted in February 2013, attracted plenty of attention. The results, published for the first time, again showed the very strong ethical angle of the whole campaign and interpreters who refused to work for Capita IT.
Among the reasons for rejecting the Framework Agreement were:
- The interests of justice
- Saying “no” to outsourcing
- Lack of ethics of the company
- Interpreters felt devalued and disrespected.
A presentation by Fair Trials International concentrated on the importance of effective interpretation from a fair trials perspective, giving three examples where the lack of quality interpreting (or lack of interpreting at all) led to injustice. The organisation emphasised the fact that since February 2012 (the rollout of the Framework Agreement) there were severe concerns about availability of interpreters, and adjournments leading to prolongation of detention, or even cases going ahead without interpreters.
The need for quality standards was then discussed in the light of the main legal interpreting qualification in the UK – the Diploma in Public Service Interpreting – and with consideration for the EU Directive on the Right to Interpretation.
It is fair to say that the campaign united interpreters and organisations in the fight towards a common goal. It is also evident, from this seminar and from all steps of the campaign, that the major concern of the stakeholders is not related to the economic aspect of the change. Interpreters, organisations, and industry watchdogs alike are concerned with quality and standards. This seminar, and in fact the whole campaign, shows unity in ethics, quality, and professionalism. And aren’t these the right attributes when we think of the legal setting?