Inclusive Juries – Access for People who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Blind or Have Low Vision
Tabled in Parliament Date:
The Commission considered how to make juries more inclusive by changing legislation and practices to enhance access for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have low vision who wish to serve as jurors in Victoria. The report was delivered on 30 July 2022 and will be published after it has been tabled in Parliament.
Summary of the issues
The role of a jury in criminal and civil trials is to determine questions of fact and to apply the law, as stated by the judge, to those facts to reach a verdict.
The Juries Act 2000 (Vic) does not specifically exclude people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or who have low vision from serving as jurors in Victoria. The Act specifies that a person is ineligible to serve if they are ‘unable to communicate in or understand the English language adequately’ or have ‘a physical disability that renders the person incapable of performing the duties of jury service’.
Many limitations resulting from a person’s disability can be overcome with supports, for example an Auslan interpreter or screen reading programs, but the Act does not state when courts should consider or provide supports.
A further legal barrier is the old common law rule that there must not be more than 12 jurors present in jury deliberations (the jury room). This is known as the ‘13th person rule’ and it means that a juror cannot be assisted by a non-juror in jury deliberations.
The combination of the 13th person rule and the lack of guidance about the provision of supports means that jury service is often not possible for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or who have low vision.
Participation as a juror is an important aspect of civic life. People who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or who have low vision should be represented on juries because they are part of our community. They should be able to participate in civic life on equal terms with others.
Reform will respond to recent decisions by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the UN Committee) calling for change to jury laws in Australia.
Reform will also be consistent with the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities, which integrates international human rights standards into Victorian law. It includes the right to equality before the law and protection from discrimination, including on the basis of disability.
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Inclusive Juries - Access for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have low vision
The Victorian Law Reform Commission is considering what changes to the law should be made to help people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have low vision who wish to serve as jurors in Victoria.
- Terms of reference received
- Submissions and consultations
- Submissions closed
- Final Report
- Tabled in parliament