Deaf jurors in mock trial experiment

Researchers at the University of NSW will conduct a mock trial this week to investigate the practicality of allowing deaf people to serve as jurors with the assistance of Auslan interpreters in the court and during deliberations. Professor Sandra Hale noted that “other countries already have them”, and said the trial would “find out what impact having a deaf juror in the deliberation room and the trial will have on the rest of the participants”. The Australian deaf community has been lobbying and running test cases for the right to participate in jury service. In 2006, the NSW Law Reform Commission recommended that “people who are blind or deaf should be qualified to serve on juries, and not be prevented from doing so on the basis of that physical disability alone”; instead, a decision should be made on a case-by-case basis. The Victorian Law Reform Commission is currently conducting an inquiry into jury empanelment, but it observed that “Issues associated with the eligibility of [deaf] persons to serve on juries are beyond the scope of the Commission’s terms of reference.”