You are here

Munby blasts interpretation service for extensive failures

Capita still failing to meet targets, causing family hearings to be disrupted, reports Catherine Baksi

3 February 2015

Add comment

Capita still failing to meet targets, causing family hearings to be disrupted, reports Catherine Baksi

The private outsourcing giant contracted to provide court translation services has been ordered to pay £16,000 for its "lamentable" and "serial failure" to provide interpreters in an adoption case.

President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby, ordered Capita to pay the costs incurred by Kent County Council after it failed on seven occasions to provide two Slovak interpreters.

In a damning judgment that he refused Capita permission to appeal, Munby said the case was a "truly lamentable state of affairs" in which there had been "serial failures" by Capita against a background of "wider systemic problems".

He said the failures "were not minor but extensive, and, at two different stages of the litigation, they had a profound effect on the conduct of the proceedings".

Munby ordered Capita to pay £15,927.36 less the VAT for the local authority's costs in respect of two hearings, but he refused an application that it pay the costs of counsel's advice following receipt of the draft judgment.

On Capita's business arrangements, he said: "As between Capita and the interpreters it employs, the relationship is that of independent contractors who, as we have seen, are not contractually obliged to accept any particular assignment, or even to honour any engagement which the interpreter has accepted.

But he said: "That is a matter for Capita and does not, in my judgment, affect anything I have to decide."

"Lamentable" though its failures were, Munby emphasised that the decision had been on the facts of the particular case and said: "I am not to be understood as suggesting that Capita will be liable for each and every failure to provide an interpreter."

He added: "Nor should it be assumed that a similar liability will extend to other private-sector contractors whose failures can impact adversely upon the court sitting-day."

The ruling follows figures released by the Ministry of Justice showing that three years after the start of the contract, Capita is still failing to meet its key performance target, causing hearings to be disrupted.

Commenting, Labour's shadow justice minister, Andy Slaughter, said "This is another damning blow to Chris Grayling from one of Britain's top judges. It is truly shocking that the government are unable to get a grip three years into the contract.

"Capita's underperformance in providing interpreting and translation services is an embarrassment from which even this lord chancellor cannot hide from as official figures show that hundreds of interpreters are continuing to turn up late or not at all."

Capita declined to comment due to "ongoing legal procedures".

Read the full judgment here.

Categorised in:

Marriage & Civil partnership