Equality in the Jury Room: A case study
Natalie Wade, the Chair of ALHR’s National Disability Rights Subcommittee has written an article for the Australian lawyers Alliance on the rights of deaf jurors.
The denial of a deaf person’s right to exercise their citizenship by participating in juries in Australian courts is longstanding. The stereotyped perceptions against deaf jurors being able to perform these duties without undermining the administration of justice are deeply entrenched in Australian society and court systems. Despite the New South Wales Law Reform Commission’s inquiring into this issue in 2006 and the recent report from Australian Law Reform Commission, Equality, Capacity and Disability in Commonwealth Laws, which called for law reform and support to enable deaf persons to participate as jurors, the reality remains that Australian law does not support the participation of deaf jurors. This reality was faced by two individuals in 2012, Gemma Beasley (‘GB’) and Michael Lockrey (‘ML’) who, on separate occasions, were unable to serve as jury members in New South Wales courts on the basis of their disability. As a result, GB and ML took their cases to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (‘Committee’) who made a decision in relation to the complaints in April 2016. Australia is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (‘CRPD’), and the Optional Protocol to the CRPD, which gives the Committee competence to hear these complaints. This article examines the human right violations committed by Australia in failing to provide reasonable accommodations to deaf persons to participate as jurors.
If you are interested in joining ALHR’s national Disability Rights Subcommittee you can contact Natalie here