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Revealed: Police spend £2m on interpreters to break language barrier

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Police across Shropshire and Mid Wales have spent more than £2.5 million on foreign language interpreters over the past five years, according to new figures.

The money has been spent helping prisoners in custody and providing support for victims, and translations have been made for people speaking Polish, Romanian and Dutch.

But the amount spent by West Mercia Police, which covers Shropshire, has been declining year on year. Officials have put the shrinking figures down to a "downward trend" of overall crime.

West Mercia Police

Cost of interpreter services including NRPSI and British Sign Language

2012/13: £357,439.42

2011/12: £390,244.42

2010/11: £388,394.78

2009/10: £374,586.32

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2008/09: £527,061.62

Total: £2,037,726.56

Dyfed Powys Police

Cost of interpreters, fees and services including Welsh language translations

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2013/14: £100,855.19

2012/13: £96,532.73

2011/12: £83,192.53

2010/11: £102,419.23

2009/10: £136,749.34

Total: £519,749.02

Overall total: £2,557,475.58

The figures for West Mercia Police and Dyfed-Powys Police have been revealed through a Freedom in information request, which revealed the two forces had racked up a combined total of £2,557,475.58. West Mercia Police spent £2,037,726.56 since 2008, while officers in Powys spent £519,749.02.

Money spent in West Mercia has been declining since 2008/9, when £527,061.62 was spent. The highest spend for Dyfed-Powys was in 2009/10 at £136,749.34, while costs rose again in 2013/14 to £100,855.19.

Since April 2014, the top six language translation that West Mercia Police has paid for are Polish, Romanian, Lithuanian, Sylheti, Russian and Dutch.

Chloe Drinkwater, spokeswoman for West Mercia Police, said: "Crime is on a downward trend and over the past few years, the number of people arrested has continued to fall. A combination of falling crime and changes to arrest procedures attributes to the decline in amount spent on translation services.

"The promoted use of voluntary interviews has also impacted on arrest numbers which have continued to fall, while there has been a significant up surge in the amount of interviews carried out voluntarily. This downward trend on arrest numbers, and the falling crime rate is reflected in the reducing cost of translation services.

"If an officer finds that they are unable to communicate effectively with a person whether they be a witness, under arrest or having attended voluntarily then they will call on the services of a translator.

"This can either be over the telephone using the services of 'Languageline', or in person using the services of 'NRPSI'."

In 2011, the Ministry of Justice outsourced interpretation work to private firm Applied Language Solutions (ALS) in a bid to save £18 million a year.

ALS was sold to Capita, an outsourcing and recruitment company, before the contract began, and is now run as Capita Translation and Interpreting.

West Mercia Police has uses the services of Languageline or NRPSI.

But those behind The Professional Interpreters for Justice campaign are calling for change.

One of the campaign's three aims is to bring back the direct employment of freelance interpreters by the courts and police services.

The Race Relations Act states all parts of the community should have access to services. The Human Rights Act only requires translation if someone is arrested or charged with a criminal offence.

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