Police translation costs hit £19m a year

One senior traffic warden sitting at the office in front of the computer and writing a report
Forces spent an average of more than £450,000 each on translation and interpretation services last year

Police spending on translation services has climbed to more than £19 million a year, new figures show.

On average, forces spent more than £450,000 each on translation and interpretation services in the most recent full financial year of 2022-23.

Campaigners have said taxpayers will be “lost for words” at the increasing sum.

New record for net migration

The figures, obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to police forces across the UK, come just months after the UK set a new record for net migration.

The Office for National Statistics confirmed a new estimated migration figure of 745,000 for the year up to December 2022.

It had previously given a lower figure of 606,000.

Earlier this month, Baroness Falkner of Margravine, who chairs the Equality and Human Rights Commission, warned that integration appeared to be “failing” following a decade of increasing migration.

In total, 42 out of 46 forces responded to the FOI, providing a cumulative total spend on translation and interpretation of £19,616,307 in 2022-23 - an £818,518 increase on 2021-22.

London’s Metropolitan Police - which services the largest demographic in the UK - dwarfed its rivals with £6,471,436 spent on these services.

‘Unnecessary spend’

Commenting on the stats, Rupert Lowe, Reform UK’s Business Spokesman, said: “This translation cost is an unnecessary spend, especially considering the advancement of AI in terms of both language detection and translation.

“This is £20 million that should be spent putting officers on the street attempting to hunt down more of these criminals, rather than helping to translate the excuses of the few who have actually been caught.”

Some responses provided by forces referenced the fact that the costs included spending for sign language interpreters.

The Telegraph also understands translation platforms can be used by police where they are appropriate, however any material used for evidence is always checked by a qualified translator.

‘Taxpayers will be lost for words’

However, the figures are still likely to prompt calls for new measures to ensure foreign migrants integrate into UK society.

In Germany, integration courses consist of language lessons and an orientation course in which foreign nationals can be taught German history and culture.

Callum McGoldrick, researcher at the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “Taxpayers will be lost for words at the cost of these translators.

“The cost of interpreters in police forces across the UK continues to rise, while crime threatens to spiral out of control.”

He added: “Law enforcement needs to pool resources and make the most of new technologies to bring down these costs.

A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesperson said: “Anyone in contact with the police, whether as a victim, witness or suspect, must be able to communicate with us to ensure that people are kept safe and evidence is gathered accurately to ensure a smooth criminal justice process.

“This right is enshrined in British and European law, and also extends to tourists visiting the UK who may need to speak to police.”

They added: “If an interaction requiring interpretation is not evidential, police officers and staff fluent in other languages may be utilised. Otherwise, contracts are managed carefully to ensure spending is proportionate.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Government is committed to ensuring the police have the tools they need to keep the public safe. We delivered on our commitment to deliver 20,000 additional police officers and have also confirmed a total police funding settlement of up to £18.5 billion in 2024-25.

“It is a matter for individual Police and Crime Commissioners to decide how funding is best utilised. Money spent on translation services is vital to ensuring that victims, witnesses and suspects of crime are able to effectively communicate with the police.”