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Fishiest outsourcing firms

Capita Translation and Interpreting

Capita Translation and Interpreting

Capita Translation and Interpreting was founded by entrepreneur Gavin Wheeldon as Applied Language Solutions in 2003. Wheeldon's mum recalled: "My nickname for Gavin was our little Arthur Daley. My dad always said if he didn’t end up behind bars he’d end up making a fortune." Wheeldon didn't end up behind bars, and his grandad was right.

In August 2011, ALS won a five-year contract with the Ministry of Justice to provide a "one-stop shop" for interpreting services to courts and tribunals in England and Wales. The deal was supposed to cut £18m from court translation costs – almost a quarter of the budget. But things went badly wrong.

ALS slashed the fees paid to skilled legal translators, and nine out of ten refused to sign up with the company. The company's failure to attract qualified staff led to trial delays costing thousands of pounds each. Instead ALS, which Wheeldon sold to Capita in December 2011, recruited unqualified staff, leading to complaints from lawyers, magistrates and judges.

In September 2012 the National Audit Office issued a damning report. Public Accounts Committee chair Margaret Hodge said: "It is appalling that the ministry awarded ALS a £90m contract to provide a service essential to ensuring the proper administration of justice that was clearly beyond this company's ability to deliver."

Applied Language Solutions (now Capita) is nominated for:
  • Failing to offer skilled translators decent pay, and instead signing up a cat and a rabbit.
    (Source: Birmingham Mail 9/3/12Financial Times 12/9/12)
  • Causing repeated cancellations and delays to trials. An Ipswich court resorted to using Google's online translation service.
    (Source: Law Society Gazette 8/3/12
  • Providing interpreters without the required criminal record checks.
    (Source: BBC News 9/8/12)
  • The National Audit Office's findings, which described ALS's initial performance as "wholly inadequate". 
    (Source: Public Service 14/9/12)
  • The collapse of a trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court, after it was discovered that an interpreter had mispronounced a defendant's statement as “bitten” rather than “beaten”.
    (Source: New Statesman 9/7/12)
  • The delay of a murder trial at Winchester Crown Court after an unqualified interpreter could not accurately translate questions from a barrister. He later revealed that his wife – the interpreter supplied by ALS – was busy and he was filling in for her. 
    (Source: Guardian 20/7/12)
  • A man charged with perverting the course of justice being told he was "a pervert". 
    (Source: Independent 21/7/12)
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