Victoria Law Reform Commission Consultation on Jurors Who Are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Blind or Have Low Vision

The Victoria Law Reform Commission is conducting a public consultation on more inclusive juries.

The state of Victoria is in south-eastern Australia and its capital is Melbourne.

The Commission wants to find out what reforms are needed to improve access for people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have low vision who wish to serve as jurors in the state of Victoria.

It issued a consultation paper in December 2020 and will be gathering input until the end of February.

From the terms of reference:

“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.”

Law reform commission reports can be great sources for legal research.

Many of the reports provide historical background and you can often find comparative information about how different jurisdictions have responded to an issue.

In the case of this consultation paper from Victoria, Appendix B provides information about the experience of many other jurisdictions when it comes to different measures to accommodate jurors living with visual or hearing disabilities. These include New Zealand, England and Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the United States, and Canada.

Other recent examples of reports from 2020 and 2021 that include comparative information include:

Good legal researchers should not overlook law reform commissions or institutes as sources of information.

 

 

 

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