When prison doesn’t work: your letters to the editor

Only proper register of interpreters

As if legal professionals did not face enough challenges at work, along comes another. The profession has for some time needed to be aware of the risks to our judicial system of using unregistered interpreters who are not bound by a professional code of conduct and cannot be held accountable for their work. However, it seems that legal professionals must now also contend with distinguishing between the National Register of Public Service Interpreters (NRPSI) and privately owned ‘lists’ of interpreters that are, confusingly, being referred to as ‘registers’. 


This situation is alarming for many reasons, not least because it has come to our attention that a legal firm has rejected engaging the services of an NRPSI-registered interpreter because they were not ‘registered’ with a certain privately owned agency.


Let us be absolutely clear: NRPSI is the only independent register and regulator of public service interpreters of the spoken word in the UK. Free from both political and commercial influence, NRPSI was set up in 1994 following the recommendation of a royal commission. NRPSI’s original aim was to ensure the legal sector always had access to a register of interpreters whose qualifications and experience had been independently verified as having met a transparent set of registration criteria. 


NRPSI’s aim today is the same, but has been expanded to provide all public service organisations with similar access. That remit, like those of other regulators, is possibly even more relevant now given that professional expertise is increasingly coming under threat from agencies and individuals operating without the public interest at their heart. 


Unlike the private owners of other ‘lists’ of interpreters that have, unhelpfully at best, been called ‘registers’, NRPSI is not a language agency motivated by profit or a membership organisation. Neither is NRPSI (and nor does it claim to be) a combination of these. NRPSI is and always will be focused on maintaining professional interpreting standards and protecting these from all types of threat for the benefit of the public, our justice system and the interpreting profession. 


We therefore ask Gazette readers to ensure that you are working with NRPSI-registered interpreters by using NRPSI’s free online register to source interpreting professionals or to check an interpreter is registered. And please also ask to see your NRPSI interpreter’s photo ID card. Look for the purple speech bubble – the mark of an NRPSI-registered interpreter.


Mike Orlov

NRPSI executive director and registrar, National Register of Public Service Interpreters


When prison doesn’t work

In his 10 February Leader, Paul Rogerson rightly commends Chris Atkins’ new book about his time in prison, A Bit of a Stretch.


Atkins has presented us with yet another indictment of governments’ non-policy, with a drift into ever-increasing doses of the wrong medicine over crime, sentencing and the ludicrous overuse of prison. For so many current inmates, structured and skilled sanctions administered in the community would have comfortably sufficed and offered a far better success rate than the myth being recycled of prison in today’s ‘banged up’ conditions being a deterrent, or carrying with it any serious prospect of rehabilitation.


Since the mid-1990s in particular, intelligent and workable measures that stood a chance of reducing reoffending have gone out of the window.


We should all be ashamed of this dereliction of duty and clamour through every channel available to us against this mindless short-termism.


Some years ago the Law Society’s Council passed a resolution nem con deploring the Labour government’s inanity in allowing such a parlous state of affairs to continue and calling urgently for a reality check. It is now time for the Society to take a stand once again.



Malcolm Fowler

Solicitor and higher-court advocate (retired), Kings Heath, Birmingham


Locked out of law

It is welcome that Social Mobility Foundation chair Alan Milburn proposed that law firms remove names, grades and universities of candidates from application forms to tackle the UK’s ‘stagnant social mobility’. The law remains a profession that favours those from fee-paying schools and a narrow selection of universities, with many bright, skilled candidates from diverse socio-economic backgrounds locked out.

The CILEx route to qualification opens up access to the law to those who might otherwise have felt it was not an option. We see first-hand the benefits different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives bring to employers and the profession. 

Most CILEx members have on-the-job experience of the profession and have developed considerable technical and client-handling skills that are valuable to employers.

Our profession has a diversity problem and steps to look at the whole individual rather than focusing on academic achievements would be a move in the right direction.



Matthew Foster

President, Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, Bedford 


Better off wed?

It is hard to understand the fuss being made over the Akhter decision supposedly leaving Muslim women ‘exposed financially’ (news, 14 February). Presumably if the marriage was never valid this leaves the woman in the position of a ‘mistress of longstanding’ (or whatever more politically correct term has now replaced that expression). Courts nowadays seem to treat such women as favourably as wives in any case, so that there is little real distinction between them. As far as divorce law is concerned, these days there appears to be little point in being married. 


Peter Bolwell



Service with a smile 

I am used to clients referring to powers of attorney as powers of eternity, but I was entertained to receive a letter advising me that grants of probate were issued by the Probation Service. Perhaps it would be quicker than the Probate Registry has been recently…


R M Napier

Albinson Napier, Warrington