Spencer, D., Roque, M. S, Napier, J. & Hale, S. (2017). Justice is blind as long as it isn't deaf: Excluding deaf people from jury duty - An Australian human rights breach. Australian Journal of Human Rights,23(3), 332-350. Australia: University of New South Wales. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/1323238X.2017.1392479
In the wake of a recent decision by the High Court of Australia, currently a deaf person, who relies on sign language, is not able to serve as a juror because Australian law does not permit the swearing in of an interpreter as the ‘13th person’ in the jury room. In 2016, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities found that Australia is in breach of its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and indicated that legislative and policy change is both mandated and feasible. Four pieces of research conducted over the last decade in Australia have proved that deaf people have the ability to understand complex legal discourse in a courtroom setting using sign language interpretation and, therefore, are able to discharge the functions of juror. The latest research, funded by the Australian Research Council, has highlighted some residual procedural and logistical issues, alongside reservations from some legal stakeholders involved in the project. However, this article argues that these can be addressed, and what is now required is the motivation to address this breach of human rights that treats deaf people differently to hearing people.
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