herald

Monday 23 April 2018

Foreign gangs threat to translation service

A Garda detective warned yesterday that safeguards are so lax they couldn’t protect against international organised criminals planting interpreters in Ireland.

Thomas O’Sullivan, who works with Interpol at garda headquarters, said a fully vetted register was urgently needed of all translators being used by the force. “Standards are appalling. We are hearing this from all over the country,” he said.

The warning came as it was revealed yesterday that a gaping loophole in garda regulations allowed an illegal immigrant to be hired as a translator for a criminal investigation.

Mr O’Sullivan revealed that during a recent investigation involving a Chinese national at Bridewell garda station in central Dublin, an interpreter was called in.

When the investigating officer became suspicious of the translator himself, who was supplied by a contracted agency, checks were run that showed he was illegally resident in the country.

In another case, a translator was found to be interpreting for a garda investigation over the telephone while she was working at a stall in a car boot sale.

Mr O’Sullivan, himself a registered translator and linguist, said the length of time it took for an interpreter to be sent out also impacted on the effectiveness of inquiries.

In the last two weeks, investigators had to wait for an hour and 20 minutes for translators when they arrested three foreign nationals at Kanturk garda station in Co Cork.

The wait was almost one-quarter of the six hours detectives were allowed to legally detain the suspects in the theft inquiry.

The garda investigator said agencies contracted by the force were currently costing about €3m a year.

But, he claimed, the service offered was often poor and security checks were so lax that they were open to abuse by organised criminals.

“They are not robust enough to prevent that,” he said.

A working group reported on the use of translators by the garda in 2002 and came up with several recommendations for improvements to the system but the study was shelved, he said.

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