The main company contracted by the government to provide courtroom interpreting has pledged to honour bookings made by a sub-contractor which appears to be no longer in business.

Leeds-headquartered thebigword, which was awarded a Ministry of Justice contract in 2016, told the Gazette that Bolton-based Debonair Languages 'ceased operations' on 5 August.

Thebigword has agreed to honour bookings taking place on or after 5 August. For any bookings fulfilled by Debonair Languages before 5 August, thebigword remains responsible to pay Debonair for them. Debonair is responsible for paying its linguists.

A spokesperson for thebigword said: 'Debonair Languages ceased operations on Monday 5th August. Thebigword has put in measures to support linguists that had been working with Debonair and, where possible, welcome them to the other roles in thebigword community.'

The Gazette has tried to contact Debonair Languages several times this week.

Debonair Languages's website states that it works with the Ministry of Justice 'and offer a wide range of interpreters qualified to Standard level (community interpreting) all the way up to complex written qualified'.

The website says: 'Our interpreters are well versed in court proceedings and have extensive court experience. Every day we place interpreters into Crown Court bookings all over the country.'

Portuguese interpreter and translator Pedro Matias says he is owed £320.38 for legal interpreting work carried out in June and July, and has filed a civil money claim against Debonair Languages.

Matias believes that the ministry's decision to outsource interpreting and translation services through agencies has 'ultimately caused this issue'.  

He said: 'I must pay annual fees to be a member of the National Register of Public Service Interpreters and Chartered Institute of Linguistics, where anyone who requires my services can find me. Clients can reach out to linguists directly that way, without any involvement of third parties. However, unfortunately, the Ministry of Justice decided to stop doing that back in 2011.'

Before 2012, the Ministry of Justice booked courtroom interpreters directly from the national register through court staff. In 2012, a framework agreement under which courts and justice agencies obtain interpreters and translators through a single agency aroused fierce controversy.