Three months into its contract to provide court interpreters Applied Language Solutions (ALS) was not meeting its performance targets, statistics published today reveal. Data provided to the Ministry of Justice by ALS, showed that from 30 January to 30 April 2012, ALS provided an interpreter in 81% of the cases where courts requested one. Its performance target was 98%.

In the first three months of the contract, there were 26,059 requests for interpreters at courts and tribunals in England and Wales, covering 142 languages. Of the initial requests, 2,825 (11%) were either cancelled by the court, or the person who made the request failed to attend. These figures are not included in the fulfillment numbers.

The figures show that the overall success rate for requests increased from 65% in February to 90% in April, with success rates varying between 58-95% for the 20 most requested languages at all courts, and between 69-94% at tribunals.

There were 2,232 complaints relating to the requests during the period. The complaints, categorised by ALS, show that 44% were due to interpreters not attending, 23% were due to ‘operational issues’ and 3% concerned the quality of the interpreter.

Four languages - Polish, Romanian, Urdu and Lithuanian - accounted for over a third of all language requests.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: 'We have now seen a significant and sustained improvement in performance. There are now only a tiny handful of cases each day when an interpreter job is unfilled. Disruption to court business and complaints have reduced substantially and close to 3,000 interpreters are now working under this contract. We continue to monitor the improvement on a daily basis.'

Earlier this week the solicitor general Edward Garnier QC told the House of Commons that the contract with ALS ‘is now running properly’. He said: ‘The company has got a grip on it and we can expect nothing but progress from here on.’