In a warning to those who contract with the public sector that they can face painful sanctions if they fail to come up to the mark, a company which was hired to provide interpreters for court hearings nationwide has been ordered to pay more than £13,000 after 'serial failures' caused delays in an adoption case.
The nation's most senior family judge, Sir James Munby, described it as 'truly lamentable' that interpreters had failed to turn up for six separate hearings to translate for Slovak parents who were fighting to block their children’s adoption. He had had ‘no choice’ but to adjourn a final hearing of the case because, to proceed in the absence of interpreters, would have been ‘unjust and inhumane’.
The local authority which had instigated the adoption proceedings sought an order requiring the company to pay its wasted legal costs. However, the company pointed out that it did not directly employ the interpreters on its books and could not compel any of them to accept a particular job. It contended that any failures on its part should be dealt with by the government on a purely contractual footing.
However, the judge found that it was ‘just’ to order the company to pay the council’s £4,207 legal bill. He remarked: "There have been serial failures by (the company) in this case, against a background of wider systemic problems". The company was also ordered to foot the council’s £9,000 costs of the instant hearing.