Matter initiated by the Commission pursuant to section 5(1)(b) of the Victorian Law Reform Commission Act 2000 (Vic) on 12 March 2020.
The Victorian Law Reform Commission will consider what changes to legislation and practices should be made 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 Juries Act 2000 (Vic) provides a list of people who are ineligible to serve as jurors. Among those excluded are persons with ‘a physical disability that renders [them] incapable of performing the duties of jury service’, and those who are ‘unable to communicate in or understand the English language adequately’.
Although people who are deaf, hard or hearing, blind or have low vision are not expressly precluded from jury service, prohibitions on allowing interpreters or communication assistants into the jury room mean that, for many, such service would not be possible.
The project will examine the current legal framework to consider whether legislative change is required, what practical supports would be necessary, and whether there are specific circumstances in which such jury service should be limited.
In conducting this review, the Commission will have regard to:
– Relevant legal and practice developments in domestic and international jurisdictions.
– Current practice and statistics in Victoria relating to excusal and disqualification of people who are deaf, hard or hearing, blind or have low vision as jurors.
– The common law rule prohibiting any non-jurors from being present in jury deliberations (the ‘thirteenth person’ rule).
– The interaction with discrimination law and human rights in Victoria.
– The interaction with peremptory challenges and crown stand-asides.
– The resourcing and training implications for court and jury offices staff and judicial officers.
– The importance of a fair trial and confidence in the jury system.
The Commission will not consider:
– Whether people who cannot understand or communicate in English at all should be able to serve on juries.