Monthly Archives: June 2013

  • Australian government shelves data retention scheme

    Big Brother is watching you posterIn the midst of all the recent revelations about the US National Security Agency’s Prism surveillance programme and GCHQ’s Tempora snooping on telecommunications and internet traffic, comes a small but welcome bit of good news. the Sydney Morning Herald reports that a controversial Australian government data retention scheme that would have required Australians’ internet and telephone activities to be stored for up to 2 years for law enforcement purposes has been shelved by the federal government after an inquiry recommended that the scheme should not go ahead.

    The committee looking into the proposal as part of an inquiry into national security delivered its report on Monday. Most of those making submissions to the inquiry did not support the proposal. The federal police and the Tax Office were among the few who did. The report was scathing about the lack of information provided by former Attorney-General Nicola Roxon and her department, saying this had hampered the inquiry.

    Peter Lee, chief executive of the Internet Industry Association, said: “It’s not so much a win for industry but more a win for commonsense,” whilst John Stanton, chief executive of the Communications Alliance, said the government’s response was “good news” for consumers and the industry.

    After the report’s release, Australia’s current Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the government would not pursue data retention legislation “at this time”.

  • One week in May

    image of gilded statue of Justice on top of Old BaileyTo give an illustration of the chaos being caused by Capita Translation & Interpreting’s mismanagement of the courts and tribunals contract (posts passim), below is a record of the cases disrupted in the final week of May by failures to provide interpreters at all or provide them on time.

    How much longer can Helen Young MP continue to assert that all is well with the courts and tribunals interpreting contract?

    Guildford Crown Court

    Details:Case listed for sentence. Prosecution & defence counsel, defendant and both complainants were all in attendance by 9.45am. However, the Arabic speaking interpreter was nowhere to be seen.

    Capita sent a telephone message via a note to the judge at 10.40 am. It explained that the assigned interpreter “had informed Capita last night that he would not be able to attend as he was double booked”. Capita left a telephone message that it would be able to provide an interpreter for 2.30 pm, some 5 hours after the due time. The defendant was left to wait in custody.

    Reported by Kuljeet Singh Dobe, Barrister, Old Bailey Chambers

    Gloucester Crown Court

    Details: 3 Romanian nationals for adjourned Plea & Case Management Hearing (PCMH). No interpreter. His Honour Judge Tabor QC was scathing in his comments about Capita.

    Reported by Tim Burrows, Iacopi Palmer Solicitors LLP, Gloucester

    Birmingham Crown Court

    Court 1 – sitting at 12:00 pm
    Trial (Part Heard)

    T20127199 KREZOLEK Mariusz 20CV0147212
    LUCZAK Magdelena

    Details: Case delayed as Polish interpreter not provided by Capita for a child murder trial.

    Guildford Crown Court

    Details: Capita have failed to arrange Vietnamese interpreter for Plea & Case Management Hearing PCMH at Guildford today. Case has to be adjourned. Waste of court time/public money. Judge very angry with Capita and says he will demand a written explanation and financial penalty.

    Reported by Guy Bowden (@BarristerGuy)

    Leeds Magistrates Court

    Details: Trial at Leeds Magistrates Court aborted due to lack of Polish interpreter. Booked last month. Defendant had come from Poland for trial; witnesses from Slough.

    Reported by Sarah Greenan, Barrister (@Sarah_Zenith)

    Derby Crown Court

    Details: Case of R v Thang Vu – Vietnamese interpreter booked through Capita. Barrister reports: “None attended but we all waited all day for one to appear. ALS/Capita contacted several times by the court but no interpreter. Defendants in custody. Case put off to next day. Court booked their own interpreter and we got on the next day.”

    Norwich Crown Court

    Details: Case: R v Morkūnas T20127248

    The above case was listed at 9.30 am for Custody Time Limit hearing. A Lithuanian interpreter – booked through Capita – should have been there for a conference at 9.00 am, but did not arrive until 10.30 am. The learned Judge did not appear to believe the explanation of the interpreter being booked for 10.30 am and said enquiries would be made.

    The case was called on twice but the court could not proceed as no interpreter was present. The explanation given by Capita was that she, the interpreter, had been booked for 10.30. No member of the Norwich CC staff would have made a booking for 10.30 am as it is established over many years that CTL hearings are at 9.30 and need to be preceded by a conference. The knock-on effect was that the trial, in which I, Defence Counsel, was committed in an adjoining court, was delayed. Under the old system there were a number of excellent Lithuanian interpreters who lived within 40 minutes of the court, were familiar with its practices, and have never, in my experience, been late.

    Reported by Defence Barrister.

    Newport Crown Court

    Details: Andrew(@Andjones1000) reports on Twitter: “Vietnamese Defendant not able to be sentenced as no interpreter arrived at court. Efficiency???”

    Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court
    Court Room 10


    Case Name: O’Reilly + 11: T20127262; T20127250; T20120479; T20127269; T20127660; T20127381; T20127253;

    Andrew Stephen O Reilly; Byron James Milne; Ceri Wilmot; Edwin Gorlee; Jason Lee Seale; Michael John Connolly; Sam Omidi; Steven John Petrie; Theodorus Van-Gelder; Wayne Braund

    Two-day sentencing hearing listed to start on 23 May at 10.30 am. Ten defendants (one of which needed a Dutch interpreter) and eleven barristers left waiting in court packed with public and press as Capita fail to provide Dutch interpreter. “This is what happens when you sell off services to the cheapest bidder”, says barrister.

    The interpreter booked by Capita was ‘on holiday’ and there had been a diary error. The Judge requested Capita come to court at 2pm to explain what had happened; they didn’t and he described the situation as ‘outrageous’. Capita appeared before the Judge the next day.

    Prosecution counsel: Mr Gary Woodall
    Defence counsel for defendant Van Gelder – Ms Gatto
    Defence counsel for defendant Gorlee – Ms Thompson

    All three barristers from 9, St Johns Street Chambers.

    Wolverhampton Crown Court

    Details: Solicitor-Advocate Malcolm Fowler (Dennings Solicitors) reports: “Problems on stilts with, in particular, Wolverhampton Crown Court one, with one case from Friday put off for Capita to show cause within 14 days as to why they should not show cause over no Vietnamese interpreter.

    Today, no Polish interpreters for a two handed case put off until tomorrow and the Judge calling on Capita for wasted costs or at least to show cause.

    Before the Resident Judge at the same court there was no Vietnamese interpreters for five defendants which has caused a trial due to start today to have to be adjourned.”

  • MPs queue up to call for Capita’s interpreting contract to be axed

    image of Parliament's crowned portcullisIn a debate in parliament on 20th June this week (posts passim) Members of Parliament queued up to condemn the Ministry of Justice’s handling of the £42 mn. annual contract awarded to Capita Translation & Interpreting (formerly ALS) for court interpreting services, which is still failing after 500 days.

    Liberal Democrat Sir Alan Beith MP, who is Chairman of the House of Commons Justice Select Committee, said that it was ‘deplorable’ how court staff were ‘strongly pressed by the Government not to co-operate’ with his Committee’s enquiry.

    After Justice Minister Helen Grant MP (who was not supported by any Conservative MP in the debate) had given a prepared statement, Sir Alan said the Minister “will not have convinced any of us that the situation is acceptable and sustainable… The Minister will never convince us that the savings figures take adequate account of the additional cost to the system.”

    Andy Slaughter MP, Shadow Justice Minister, remarked that the Justice Minister had been defending the “shambles” and was the only party not to listen to the advice of Professional Interpreters for Justice, the umbrella group which represents ten interpreter organisations. He said: “The Ministry of Justice did not want the full facts to emerge. This is not the end of the matter.”

    He said the Department had been unwilling to help him with his own investigations because “they know the devastating facts; after 500 days [of the contract] about half the courts are still finding their own interpreters. The Ministry of Justice is not acknowledging that it’s getting worse. The costs of failure of the contract must now be investigated.”

    Geoffrey Buckingham, Chairman of the Association of Police and Court Interpreters (APCI), says: “Professional Interpreters for Justice was vindicated during this debate and we were delighted to hear the Members of Parliament recount the contract’s failures and highlight where the Justice Minister has gone wrong in misleading statements about performance and savings.”

    Alan Johnson MP – a former Home Secretary – said: “This is a caricature, but it seems that someone who knows a bit of holiday Spanish can now come in and do a job in the courts, which has proved to be disastrous”. He remarked that he had never known three reports (from the National Audit Office, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee and House of Commons Justice Committee) “to be so consistent in their condemnation of a Government policy.”

  • Down The Mouth – coming down

    Yesterday’s Bristol Post reports that the CWS silos in Avonmouth (affectionately known locally as ‘The Mouth’. Ed.) are curently being demolished.

    The silos are shown in the full glory in happier times. The older one on the left was built in the 1920s and is one of the few industrial buildings in Bristol with Art Deco features. The younger silo on the right was built in the 1950s. They used to supply mills on the same site; the mills themselves were demolished some 30 years ago.

    Now disappearing from the Avonmouth skyline - CWS' silos.
    Now disappearing from the Avonmouth skyline – CWS’ silos.

    In my opinion, the 1920s silo was worthy of listing as a building of architectural or historic interest for its Art Deco style. What a pity it wasn’t. 🙁

  • Fiasco at Caernarfon Crown Court

    Reposted from RPSI Linguist Lounge.

    I am a Registered Public Service Interpreter and my registration number is 14041. I attended Caernarfon Crown Court on Monday, 13th May 2013, to interpret for the defence solicitors in the case of R – v – HECKO. The defendant is Slovak.

    Upon arrival I observed three interpreters sitting in the waiting room. I introduced myself. I asked them which company they are from and was advised that one of them was sent from Capita (she lives in Cornwall) and the other two were from a company called EATI near Manchester. I asked them what their qualifications were and was told that none of them have any. I said to them that that was quite worrying since this is a murder trial and the defendant needs someone who will fully understand the terminology.

    The trial proceeded. Judge Hughes asked the interpreters to be sworn in. Interpreter 1 went into the witness box and read the affirmation. The Judge then asked the interpreter to say the same but in Slovak so that the defendant understood what she had just said. The interpreter said something to the effect that she will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Interpreter 2 went into the witness box. Again the same, she was sworn in. The Judge asked her to say the same but in Slovak to which she replies: “I do not know how to say this in Slovak.” Judge; “You are a Slovak interpreter right?” Interpreter 2; “Yes, but I have never said this in Slovak.” She then said exactly the same as Interpreter 1. Interpreter 3 was sworn and just repeated what the other 2 interpreters just said. The Judge then asked them to go and interpret from the booth.

    I listened to the interpreter “interpreting” for the defendant. They were taking it in turns. I mentioned to the solicitor for the defendant, Paul McAlinden, that the quality of the interpreting was very poor. So poor in fact, that they missed ¾ of the sentences and had I not heard the English version, I would have no idea what was being said.

    After some legal arguments, the trial was adjourned to the next day. I had the opportunity to speak to the mentioned interpreters, who were quite stressed and told me that they had no clue what was being said, as “they are not lawyers”. I told them not to come back if they felt that they could not do the job, as it is important that the defendant understands.

    The next day, Tuesday, 14th of May 2013, defendant complained to his barrister, Gregory Bull QC. He told him that the interpreters spoke Slovak but they weren’t interpreting what was being said and only interpreted the first word of each sentence.

    When I went to the courtroom I noticed that only one interpreter of the three had turned up (EATI) and there was a male interpreter present too. The Judge came in the courtroom and asked interpreter 4 to be sworn in. This interpreter was from EATI. He translated the affirmation, but was speaking in Czech. I notified the QC who spoke to the Judge. When the Judge asked Interpreter 4 what language he was speaking, he confirmed that he spoke Czech. Then he proceeded to tell the Judge that it’s “OK, as Czech and Slovak are nearly the same and the defendant will be able to understand 95% of what I am saying and he might understand the other 5%”. The Judge then told him that unfortunately in a trial like this it is not enough for the defendant to understand only 95%. Then G. Bull QC pointed out that the other interpreter was in fact not translating properly either and was just summarising what was being said, if that. The Judge asked Interpreter 2 to come to the stand and asked her if she was interpreting correctly.

    Interpreter 2: “I am only summarising. To be honest, I am only an interpreter. Interpreter summarises. I was told that this was a murder trial and I have told the owner of the translating company that I will be only summarising. He then contacted the court and was told that that was OK. My husband is an ex-detective and he told me that summarising is enough. Translator is a person who translates word by word and interpreter would summarise.”

    The Judge then asked them both to leave and asked the Clerk to find a replacement. At around 11.15 am the case was adjourned till the afternoon. The Clerk told me that Capita was sending an interpreter who would be arriving before 2 pm.

    I noticed the interpreter arriving shortly before 2 pm. I know this Capita interpreter as he was an interpreter in another case that I was working on, and I knew that he was Czech and his level of English is really poor.

    The Judge asked the interpreter whether he speaks Slovak to which he answered “yes”. Interpreter 5 was sworn in and the Judge asked him to translate what he just said. Interpreter 5 speaks Czech. I notified the QC, who addressed the Judge, who said that the interpreter just confirmed that he speaks Slovak. QC: ”With all due respect, our interpreter just confirmed that he in fact speaks Czech”.

    Judge: ”Your witness had better come to the witness stand and give evidence then.”

    I took to the stand where I was sworn in and I indeed confirm that this interpreter was speaking Czech.

    The Judge calls the interpreter back in and asks him what language he will be speaking to the defendant. At that point Interpreter 5 confirms that he speaks Czech, “but in 10 years that I’ve been doing this job I have never had any problems with this.” This sentence is said in really poor English and we all struggle to actually understand what he was trying to say.

    At 2.30pm the Judge adjourned the case again till the next morning with the hope that a qualified interpreter turns up.

    The learned Clerk approached me and asked if I had any contact details for interpreters and I directed him to the NRPSI website. He also said that the Judge was writing a letter of complaint.

    On Wednesday 15 May 2013 two NRPSI interpreters turned up and the case continued.

  • Italy’s South Tyrol region migrating 7,000 PCs to LibreOffice

    Südtirol coat of armsWith the migration from MS Office to LibreOffice, public sector organisations in Italy’s mostly German-speaking South Tyrol region are making their first major steps towards using freien software. Over the coming 3 years, will convert 7,000 PC workstations and thus save some €600,000 in licensing fees.

    Free software gained entry to Italian public sector organisations just under 20 years ago, but has so far only gained a niche presence. This has now come to an end as all public sector organisations in the South Tyrol shall in future be using the LibreOffice instead of Microsoft’s proprietary paid-for office suite. Over the next 3 years the regional government alone will be converting 7,000 computer workstations to the free software package, in addition to which several thousand more workstations in municipalities and the health sector will also be migrated.

    image of LibreOffice Mime type icons
    LibreOffice for all your office suite needs: word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database, drawing and formulas

    “With the introduction of free software for standard applications, this of course means saving for us, but not just that by a long way: free software also makes us more flexible and flexibility is of major importance in a quickly changing field such as IT”, says Alderman Roberto Bizzo, the member of the regional assembly with responsibility for IT, on the philosophy associated with the change to free software.

    Bizzo, Kurt Pöhl, head of the regional government’s IT department, free software expert Patrick Ohnewein of TIS and trade unionist Erwin Pfeifer gave a presentation yesterday the public sector’s new software strategy.

    Goodbye MS: announcing the migration to LibreOffice
    Goodbye MS Office: announcing the migration to LibreOffice

    A working group was established in February in which TIS’ experts – in concert with the regional government, municipalities and the health sector – sounded out how free software could be used in all public sector organisations. The result of the consultations is the gradual introduction of free software, starting with LibreOffice. The ODF format has also been defined as the standard public sector document exchange format.

    Read the original press release in German or Italian.

  • “Justice and the right to a fair trial have been seriously compromised”

    Yesterday afternoon, members of Parliament held a debate in Westminster Hall on the continuing disaster that is the Ministry of Justice’s contract with Capita for interpreting services in courts and tribunals in England and Wales (posts passim).

    Hansard has the full transcript of the debate, which is worth a quick skim – if nothing else – if one’s pressed for time.

    In my reading of the proceedings, I have so far not found a single MP who spoke in favour of the current arrangements with Capita. A selection of their criticisms follows.

    Firstly, Andy McDonald asking a question of Sir Alan Beith and drawing attention to the MoJ’s equally daft proposals for legal aid (posts passim).

    Does the right hon. Gentleman share my concern that we are hearing from people, such as the chairman of the Bar Council, about the significant costs and money wasted when trials collapse because of failures under the terms of the contract? Does he share my view that perhaps we would be better served if we considered saving those costs, rather than embarking on a revolution in legal aid provision and putting all that at risk again?

    Next Alan Johnson, a former Home Secretary.

    As a former Minister, I have been at the rough end of several Select Committee reports in my time, but I have never known three reports —t he National Audit Office memorandum, the Public Accounts Committee report and now the Justice Committee’s report — to be so consistent in their condemnation of a Government policy. A number of conclusions can be drawn from those reports. First, there were no fundamental problems with the original procedures. Secondly, the Ministry of Justice changed those procedures without understanding their complexities, or indeed the professionalism of the people providing the services. This is a caricature, but it seems that someone who knows a bit of holiday Spanish can now come in and do a job in the courts, which has proved to be disastrous. Thirdly, the MOJ awarded the contract to a company, ALS, that is totally incapable of fulfilling its requirements. Surely there can be little doubt about that. I do not think there are many people in this debate who will be arguing on the Government’s side, apart from the poor Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant).

    The final conclusion is that justice and the right to a fair trial have been seriously compromised as a result of this debacle.

    Thirdly, John Leech.

    In a nutshell, the system was not broken. The MOJ was warned that its proposals would cause problems, which certainly proved to be the case. When the Select Committee decided to investigate, the MoJ tried to stop staff from assisting the inquiry. Frankly, that is not good enough.

    We are not only talking about money; we must not forget justice and access to justice. In giving evidence, Mr Atkinson of the Law Society stated that while miscarriages of justice would occur infrequently, they were possible. Even one miscarriage of justice is one too many, but perhaps more concerning was his comment that “people are spending time in custody for no reason other than the lack of an interpreter.”

    I could continue in this vein for some time, but will draw to a close with the words of Sir Gerald Kaufman.

    All the available information shows that the system is not only failing abjectly, but damaging seriously the administration of justice in this country. In addition, it is costing the taxpayer huge sums of money in abandoned trials and in other ways.

    My reading so far reveals not a single MP who spoke stood up for the Ministry of Justice and its failing contract with Capita.

    That job fell to Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice Helen Grant MP, who was clearly well out of her depth and clung for support to the briefing note prepared by the MoJ’s civil servants and repeated the same misleading statements that had previously been parroted 3 weeks ago in the House of Lords by Lord McNally (posts passim).

    It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mr Pritchard. I genuinely welcome the opportunity to listen to the debate. I shall do my very best to respond to the issues raised today and to the important report of the Justice Committee.

    I would like to affirm my Department’s appreciation of the services provided to the justice system by interpreters, many of whom I can see in the Chamber today. They ensure fairness in courts and tribunals; they encourage confidence in the justice system; and they are a vital part of the service that is provided. It is well known, however, that the old system was not ideal. It was inefficient, inadequate and did not provide good value for money. Those issues were noted by the National Audit Office in its report. The new contract and framework agreement were developed to address, as far as possible, those inadequacies. The reality is that we could no longer afford to reward people in a way that bore no relation to the levels of work that they carried out. The National Audit Office recognised that important reality, too.

    Remuneration now more closely reflects the work being undertaken and is more closely aligned to the rates on offer for similarly qualified people in other public services. We do not deny that there were teething problems during the early stages of the new contract, and as the Ministry said in its response to the Justice Committee’s report, the initial performance was not satisfactory. Contingency plans were put in place quickly and had a direct effect. Disruption was kept to a minimum; we pushed Capita to improve matters urgently; and there was a significant outlay of investment on its part to improve services.

    In the year 30 January 2012 to 31 January 2013, there were more than 131,000 requests for language services, covering 259 different languages, and the overall success rate was at 90%. That is a significant improvement on the 67% successful booking rate in February 2012. The number of complaints received, as against the number of bookings made, has fallen significantly. From February 2012 to August 2012, complaints fell from 10.6% to 1.7% in criminal courts; from 6.3% to 0.8% in civil and family courts; and from 19.2% to 5.6% in tribunals.

    We take our responsibilities seriously, and we have ensured that each complaint is investigated. As has been said during the debate, lessons must be learned. I can assure hon. Members that lessons truly are being learned.

    The above is only a sample of Helen Grant’s contribution to the debate. However, it is not difficult to picture her sat in Petty France with her hands over her ears ignoring the warnings of doom coming from all quarters and making a loud noise to attempt to drown out all voices that contradict the view of the world which she has been told to accept by her mandarins.

  • Mayflower in the Underfall

    The Mayflower is a steam tug preserved by Bristol Museums Galleries & Archives. She is based in the City Docks outside the M Shed. She is the oldest Bristol-built ship still afloat and is believed to be the oldest surviving tug in the world.

    She was launched on 18th May 1861, cost £1,000 and was built to work on the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal and the River Severn.

    This week she’s not afloat at all, but high and dry on the patent slipway of the Underfall Yard undergoing some maintenance and is due to remain there for the next week, as I gathered on Friday evening.

    image of Mayflower out of the water
    Mayflower out of the water
  • Polish Economy Ministry to release source code for consultation site

    Polish eagle emblemPoland’s Ministry of Economy will release the source code that it wrote for linking its back office to a site built with the Drupal open source content management system (CMS), reports the EU’s public sector open source news site Joinup. The site is used for consultations and tgathering feedback on the Ministry’s projects and policies.

    “This is more than a standalone consultation platform based on Drupal”, a Ministry spokesperson explains. The service is made of two parts: firstly, a module for the Drupal-based site to create consultations and share documents and secondly the code that links this module to the document management system. “We’re using Zend Framework to create this second part. The solution allows us to embed the document and work-flow management system, including legislative and technical rules for creating the documents.”

    The applications are currently being readied for a production environment. The spokesperson remarked that the developers are still fixing a few bugs, but live data is already being used.

    The ministry expects this phase to be completed in about a month, after which the code will be published on a software development site, although the Ministry still has to decide which code repository to use.

    Poland’s Foundation on Open and Free Software (FWIOO) says that the Ministry’s site “has the potential to become the default on-line consultation platform of the Polish government.” FWIOO was also involved in drafting the software’s specifications. “One year ago we created a similar tool for the Ministry of Administration and Digitization. That was also a combination of Drupal and free software extensions”.

  • Debian 7.1 released

    Debian logoThe post below appeared on the Debian News website on Saturday, 15th June 2013.

    The Debian project is pleased to announce the first update of its stable distribution Debian 7 (codename “wheezy”). This update mainly adds corrections for security problems to the stable release, along with a few adjustments for serious problems. Security advisories were already published separately and are referenced where available.

    Please note that this update does not constitute a new version of Debian 7 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away 7 CDs or DVDs but only to update via an up-to-date Debian mirror after an installation, to cause any out of date packages to be updated.

    Those who frequently install updates from won’t have to update many packages and most updates from are included in this update.

    New installation media and CD and DVD images containing updated packages will be available soon at the regular locations.

    Upgrading to this revision online is usually done by pointing the aptitude (or apt) package tool (see the sources.list(5) manual page) to one of Debian’s many FTP or HTTP mirrors. A comprehensive list of mirrors is available at:

    The original post also contained an extensive list of bug fixes and security updates for the affected packages; full details of these can be found in the changelog.

Posts navigation