1. The Juries Act 2000 (Vic) (the Juries Act) should be amended to require that where a judge considers that reasonable adjustments would enable a person who is deaf, hard of hearing, blind or has low vision to serve as a juror, the judge must direct that those adjustments be provided or direct that the Juries Commissioner provide them.
2. The Juries Act should be amended to provide that, in making a decision about the provision of reasonable adjustments, the judge may consider how the adjustments may affect the trial, the impact on court resources and any other issue that the judge considers relevant. The Act should also specify that the judge may be guided by any evidence that they consider relevant in making their decision.
3. The Juries Act should include a non-exhaustive list of possible adjustments that can be supplemented by regulation. The list of possible adjustments should include: Auslan interpreters; support persons; an assistance animal; and disability aids including technological aids that facilitate communication, for example, with speech-to-text software and screen reading programs.
4. The Juries Act should be amended to limit the operation of the 13th person rule to the extent necessary to allow interpreters or support persons in the jury room, as directed by the court.
5. Schedule 2 clause 3(a) of the Juries Act should not apply if a judge rules that reasonable adjustments can be provided to enable a person in the subject groups to serve as a juror.
6. The Juries Commissioner should be given a new own motion power in the Juries Act to defer jury service for a person in the subject groups to better enable the provision of reasonable adjustments.
7. The Juries Commissioner should be given a new power in the Juries Act to hold a person out of a ballot for a panel where a trial is to be heard in a courtroom that cannot accommodate reasonable adjustments that would enable that person to serve as a juror.
8. A decision by the Juries Commissioner to hold a person out of a ballot should be appealable under section 10 of the Juries Act to either the County Court or the Supreme Court. This matter should be dealt with in an urgent interlocutory hearing.
9. The Juries Act should be amended to provide that if a judge determines that reasonable adjustments should not be provided to a juror in a particular trial, the judge may either return the person to the jury pool to potentially serve as a juror on another trial or excuse the person from their summons. In determining whether to excuse a person from their summons the judge may consider the wishes of the person.
10. The Victorian courts should build on existing building improvement programs to improve court accessibility to enable people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have low vision to serve as jurors.
11. Juries Victoria should coordinate the provision of reasonable adjustments.
12. Juries Victoria should change the juror questionnaire (juror eligibility form) and the juror summons form to request information about the need for adjustments for a person who is deaf, hard of hearing, blind or has low vision.
13. Juries Victoria should contact a potential juror from the subject groups to discuss their needs and to offer a pre-empanelment visit to the court.
14. To assist the Juries Commissioner to make a recommendation to the court about the provision of reasonable adjustments, judges’ chambers shall provide Juries Victoria with additional information about evidence that is likely to be material to the outcome of the trial that might make it difficult for the potential juror to serve on that trial.
15. The Juries Commissioner must make a recommendation to the Court about the provision of reasonable adjustments. This should be done as early as possible, preferably before the date the juror is required to attend court in response to their summons.
16. The Juries Act should be amended to give the Juries Commissioner a new power to hold a person out of a ballot for a panel for a trial if the Juries Commissioner determines that the trial is not suitable for the potential juror. This decision should be appealable under section 10 of the Juries Act to either the County Court or the Supreme Court.
17. The final decision about whether a person in the subject groups can serve on a jury should be made by a trial judge on the day of empanelment.
18. The County and Supreme Courts should develop guidance and suggested standard directions to use at the time of empanelment, after the jury has been selected, and at the commencement of formal deliberations, to explain the nature of any adjustments that have been made and how they will work.
19. The communication requirement in Schedule 2(3)(f) of the Juries Act should be modified so that the requirement to communicate in English does not apply if a juror can communicate in Auslan.
20. Juries Victoria and the courts should make it clear in public information about the new laws that the ability to understand English continues to be a requirement for jury service.
21. The Judicial College of Victoria should develop and deliver training to the judiciary on the Recommended National Standards for Working with Interpreters in Courts and Tribunals and about the training and certification requirements for Auslan interpreters.
22. Auslan interpreters should work in pairs and must be independent of the juror.
23. Auslan interpreters who interpret for jurors should be qualified at a Certified Specialist Legal Interpreter level, or if not available, at a Certified Interpreter level.
24. All Auslan interpreters who interpret for jurors should complete a professional development unit about the role.
25. The courts should develop standards and a code of conduct for Auslan interpreters, which outlines their role and responsibilities. Amendments to the Juries Act should be accompanied by regulation that includes accreditation requirements, standards, and a code of conduct for Auslan interpreters.
26. An oath or affirmation for Auslan interpreters should be included in the Juries Act regarding their duty to maintain confidentiality, not participate in or disclose deliberations and interpret truthfully.
27. When booking Auslan interpreters, Juries Victoria should ensure that wherever possible the same interpreters are available for the duration of the trial to maintain consistency in interpreting.
28. Juries Victoria should retain data about the number of bookings it makes for Auslan interpreters, including the number of interpreters and how long they are needed.
29. The courts and Juries Victoria should pay Auslan interpreters who undertake jury work a rate that is commensurate of the skill required to perform the role and at a level that will retain and attract Auslan interpreters to do this type of work.
30. The courts and Juries Victoria should ensure that an accessibility officer is available to assist a person from the subject groups, where needed, with practical and logistical issues throughout the jury selection process and the trial. This person would not be permitted to enter the jury deliberation room.
31. The Juries Act should be amended to provide for the appointment of an independent support person to enable a person who is deaf, hard of hearing, blind or has low vision to perform the role of juror.
32. The nature of the support person’s role and who should perform the role should be determined by the judge.
33. The courts should develop standards and a code of conduct for support persons, which outline their role and responsibilities. Amendments to the Juries Act should be accompanied by regulation that includes standards and a code of conduct for support persons, and may include accreditation requirements in the future.
34. An oath or affirmation should be included in the Juries Act regarding the support person’s duty to maintain confidentiality, not participate in or disclose deliberations, and to well and truly support the juror.
35. The offences in sections 77, 78 and 78A of the Juries Act should be extended to Auslan interpreters and support persons appointed under the Act.
36. A new offence should be introduced to prohibit Auslan interpreters and support persons from interfering with or influencing jury deliberations. This could be modelled on the approach in England and Wales.
37. The Juries Victoria website should provide information about the excuse process and provide examples for people from the subject groups.
38. The Juries Act should be amended to clarify that section 32(3) may be exercised by the courts on their own motion to excuse a person from the empanelment process for a trial.
39. When a person from the subject groups is on a jury panel, the judge should inform the court, in the presence of the accused and counsel, but before the jury panel enters, that it is permissible for a person from the subject groups to serve and necessary adjustments have been made to enable them to do so.
40. Juries Victoria should retain data on the number of people who request adjustments to serve and the number who are provided with those adjustments but are peremptorily challenged during the empanelment process.
41. The Department of Public Prosecutions’ policy should be amended to specifically provide that stand asides should not be used against people in the subject groups on the basis of disability.
42. Juries Victoria should retain data on the number of people who request adjustments to serve and the number who are provided with those adjustments but are stood aside during the empanelment process.
43. Disability awareness training should be required for judiciary, Juries Victoria staff, court staff, counsel and lawyers likely to work with juries.
44. Disability awareness training should have a practical focus and be developed and delivered in collaboration with peak advocacy organisations representing people from the subject groups.
45. Professional development training should be provided to the judiciary, legal professionals and Juries Victoria about the way that new laws will work in practice.
46. Juries Victoria, in consultation with the courts, should develop internal protocols to guide its own staff and court staff about the implementation of new laws. These protocols should include practical examples.
47. The Disability Access Bench Book should be updated to include information about new laws.
48. Information about the new laws and policies should be widely distributed to the Victorian community in accessible formats, including videos, printed information by Government and advocacy organisations, and on the Juries Victoria and court websites.
49. The Victorian Government should consult with the Aboriginal Justice Caucus, Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service about the best way of ensuring culturally appropriate information reaches the Aboriginal community to encourage Aboriginal people from the subject groups to serve on Victorian juries.
50. Juries Victoria and the courts should collect disaggregated data about people from the subject groups who are summonsed to be in the jury pool and those who go on to serve. Data should be collected at each stage of the jury selection process and in relation to relevant aspects of trials. It should cover at a minimum:
• types of disability
• whether potential jurors identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
• adjustments sought
• adjustments provided including duration of Auslan interpreting
• the number of times the Juries Commissioner exercises the new powers to hold a person’s card out of a ballot
• the number of times the Juries Commissioner exercises the new powers to defer jury service for a person in the subject groups to arrange adjustments
• why people excused from jury duty could not serve
• the number of times judges exercise their discretion not to allow a person to serve on a jury, or otherwise exclude them
• the number of times people who request adjustments are challenged from jury selection
• length and nature of trials
• experiences of the jury selection process and serving as jurors with adjustments.
51. Subject to the confidentiality requirements of section 78 of the Juries Act, Juries Victoria should obtain qualitative data by surveying jurors from the subject groups about their experiences.
52. Juries Victoria should collate, analyse and report the data in the annual report of the Supreme Court.
53. The Attorney-General should review the new provisions in the Juries Act five years from the date of commencement, to determine whether the policy objectives of the new provisions are being met and whether any amendments to the Act are needed. A report on the outcome of the review should be tabled in each House of Parliament within 12 months of the review.