Govt urged to implement recommendations allowing equal access to jury duty

22nd May 2023

Proposed law reform to ensure people who are deaf or blind can participate in juries in Victoria is welcome, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

Last week the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC) recommended changes to the law and practice to enable people who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or have low vision to serve on juries.

These recommendations are an important step in an ongoing public conversation about how best to facilitate equal access to justice and to the justice system for people living with disabilities,” said Lachlan Fitch, State President, Australian Lawyers Alliance.

“We urge the Government to accept these recommendations and take action to ensure people living with disabilities are able to participate in this important civic duty.

“I think the community would be surprised to learn that, due to an old common law rule that means there cannot be 13 people in the jury room, people with these disabilities cannot participate in jury duty. This is out of step with community expectations, as well as current discrimination policies and practices.

“We were pleased to see a recent decision from the Supreme Court in the ACT whereby it was determined that an Auslan interpreting service must be provided for a potential juror during the empanelment process. If the juror had been selected for the jury, the Court decision stated that an Auslan service was to be provided for the duration of the trial.”

The judgment states that this decision was understood to be the first such decision in the ACT and possibly in Australia.

“Victoria should look to follow the direction being progressed in the ACT to allow the provision of necessary supports to enable everyone to participate in Victoria’s justice system,” said Lachlan.

Tags: Victoria Disability Discrimination Jury Room Jury