A rape trial which had to be aborted amid concerns an interpreter was giving inaccurate and unreliable translations has left the taxpayer with a £30,000 bill.
The Department of Justice has launched an inquiry into how the unregistered interpreter was employed at Craigavon Crown Court last month.
The case – which involved two Lithuanian men – was abandoned after the judge said it was irreparably compromised.
It has now emerged that the aborted trial – which lasted just a day – will cost at least £30,000.
The estimated cost does not include the defendants' legal aid.
The figure was disclosed in response to an Assembly question from the DUP's Lord Morrow.
The MLA said he was appalled by the case, and believes the true cost will be much higher. "How the case got to the Crown Court stage with inept interpretational services is beyond me," he said. The court was trying the case of Lithuanian men Darius Porcikas (24) and Vytautas Mikulinas (23).
Porcikas, from Upper Edward Street in Newry, faced 14 charges, including five counts of rape, two of sexual assault, two of false imprisonment, causing actual bodily harm and assault, all in relation to a female alleged victim.
He also faced two further charges of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and actual bodily harm in relation to her ex-partner. Mikulinas, from Birch Hill Park in Portadown, faced a charge of causing actual bodily harm to the woman's ex-partner.
Both men deny the charges.
But after the opening day of the trial, prosecuting QC Richard Weir said other interpreters had raised concerns about the standard of translation of the Lithuanian alleged victim's evidence.
The judge abandoned the trial, saying it had been "irreparably compromised". A new trial is expected to open next month.
Lord Morrow said: "Only for the astuteness of a number of other interpreters involved in the case who realised the translations were inaccurate, the matter could have had extremely serious consequences, far and above the cost implications. That said, the costs – which it must be stressed are estimated and may prove conservative – are very high."
In a separate answer, Mr Ford confirmed an investigation into the matter was under way.
"An investigation into the matter has been commenced by the DoJ contract manager," he said. "The investigation is being conducted under the terms of the contract with the current service provider, and is ongoing."
A PPS spokesperson said: "The PPS, Northern Ireland Court Service and PSNI have a joint contract with the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) for the supply of interpreter services. This contract is managed by the DoJ.
"NICEM source and provide interpreters at the request of PPS for prosecution witnesses. The circumstances around this trial are the subject of an ongoing enquiry and a re-trial of the case itself and we will be unable to comment further until that enquiry is completed and until the case itself is concluded before the courts."
Breakdown of costs:
Legal Aid (excluding main defendants): £8,695
Prosecution interpreter: £300
Court interpretation: £8,083
Jury expenses: £785
Court costs: £3,890
PSNI costs: £1,703
Total costs to date: £30,891