My buddy blogger @Alanw47 asked the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) the following question on the 28th of October:
“Could you please tell me how many prisoners are in custody, on remand, awaiting the services of a Court Interpreter? I am specifically interested in prisoners who might not necessarily be in custody on remand if they could have received the services of an interpreter but there was not one available.”
On the 20th of November the MOJ wrote back saying that they were declining the FOI request because it would take to long to collate the information stating:
“There is no central record which goes into the level of detail you request. As a result,
providing the information you have requested would mean contacting all the courts
across the MoJ estate to obtain these details. In addition no start or end date is
specified in you request. As a result there are a significant number of records to
consider and these would need to be sifted to extract the relevant information on the
reason for remand. It is therefore my assessment that providing the details you ask
for would take more than 3½ days.” You can read the full response here.
However, their response began with “I can confirm that the Ministry of Justice holds information that you have asked for.”
In fairness, yes a start and end date would have helped them to supply the information and may even have brought it down to below the £600 limit. However the fact that there is no central record of this information means that they do not know how many prisoners are on remand are awaiting the services of an interpreter and more importantly how many are there because they did not receive the services of an interpreter.
If they had a central record – a spreadsheet for example then producing the requested data would have taken them a few seconds and would have come in way under their £600 limit.
Maybe the answer is none – there is no one on remand because they did not receive the services of an interpreter at court. Maybe its ten, or a hundred, or a thousand who knows not even the Ministry of Justice can answer that one! If however they had a spreadsheet they could answer the question
Does it matter? Again this is difficult to judge but potentially it does because there could be individuals who are in prison on remand simply because an interpreter was not at court to assist them. If this is the case then their Human Rights may have been breached and as I said in an earlier blog that may at some future point result in a claim for wrongful imprisonment and potentially a compensation bill. Cases could even be lost because of this issue.
All speculation I accept but if it turns out to be accurate speculation then the buck will stop at the Ministry’s door because they made the decision to award the contract to ALS since purchased by Capita and it appears that at present they have no idea as to the scale of the potential problem.
As the timely provision of interpreters is something of an issue at present – with the MOJ having effective gagged courts from reporting problems other than to themselves – it would seem reasonable that they would know the number of people who are on remand because they did not have an interpreter at court?
Perhaps someone could write & send them a suitable spreadsheet!