94 driving licences removed over test translation fraud
- 8 August 2013
- From the section Wales
Driving licences are being stripped from 94 people after an interpreter admitted selling candidates the answers to a written test.
It comes as the UK government consults on whether to scrap rules allowing those who do not speak English or Welsh to take tests in other languages.
Allyson Ng, from Bristol, was jailed at Cardiff Crown Court for fraud.
Since 2009 she had interpreted on 123 theory tests, and the DSA says it is continuing to revoke 94 of these.
While the majority of the fraudulent tests were in Cardiff, a small number were in Birmingham.
Last week Ng, who lives in Bristol, was jailed for a year after admitting conspiring to defraud the DSA, which is in charge of driving tests.
She was arrested at the Cardiff theory test centre in October 2012.
Ng charged £110 a time for translation, and the agency said it became suspicious after a surge in the number of her customers in the second half of 2011.
Any drivers who have got their licences as a result of the fraud will lose them and will have to take the theory test again.
One Cardiff-based driving instructor said he knows of examiners who have had to stop during tests to warn interpreters that they seemed to be giving candidates too much information.
Keith Willicombe, who runs the Bumps driving school, said he had also had problems with long-winded interpreters in the back seat during lessons.
Some would translate his short guidance to pupils to turn right or left, for instance, into lengthy sentences, which led him to suspect they were telling the learners how they should drive.
"I have heard of cases where the examiner during a practical test has had to pull the car over to the side of the road," said Mr Willicombe.
"The examiners have given very short instructions (to the pupil) and the translator is saying a lot. I've heard of examiners saying, 'You are going to have to give far more brief instructions because to me it seems you are saying far too much'."
Mr Willicombe said he had only taken lessons with a few interpreters, and they were often family members of the pupil.
But he had had to tell some that their long translations were a problem when he gave short instructions which needed quick responses.
A total of 2,301 theory tests with interpreters in 31 different languages or dialects were taken in Wales, England and Scotland in the financial year 2012-13.
The highest number was in Romanian (692), followed by Russian (330), Lithuanian (323), Mandarin (261), Polish (179) and Somali (176).
Candidates whose first language is not English or Welsh can use an interpreter on both the theory and practical parts of the test, but government consultation on whether to scrap this is due to end this autumn.
Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond raised questions earlier this year about the cost, the safety risk of drivers failing to understand road information - and of the danger of fraud.
Mr Hammond had already said before this court case that interpreters could be "indicating the correct answers to theory test questions".
Andy Rice, the DSA's head of fraud and integrity said after Ng was jailed that the sentence "sends a clear message that driving test fraud is a serious offence and will be dealt with accordingly".
He warned: "We have stringent measures in place to detect fraudulent activity and work closely with the police to bring all offenders to justice."