Deaf jurors plan welcomed by legal rights body

31 March 2010

Legal rights group FLAC has welcomed a proposal to allow deaf and blind persons to serve on juries. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) has taken a High Court case challenging the exclusion of Galway woman Joan Clarke from serving on a jury because she is deaf. Judgment is expected shortly in the case which was heard some time ago.

FLAC welcomed the proposal by the Law Reform Commission in its new consultation paper on Jury Service to allow deaf and blind persons to serve on juries assisted by recent technological developments. The Commission had looked at the experience in other jurisdictions, like the US, where deaf and blind jurors are allowed. It concluded that there was no evidence that this had any negative consequences.

The Law Reform Commission also dismissed fears that the presence of professional sign language interpreters in the jury room would infringe the secrecy of jury discussions.

FLAC said deaf or blind persons could perform jury service quite adequately with the assistance of interpreters or readily available modern technology. Senior Solicitor for the organisation, Michael Farrell, stated that "To exclude deaf or blind people from serving on juries amounted to discrimination because of their disability which is in breach of the UN Disabilities Convention. It also means that juries are not genuinely representative of the general population as they are supposed to be."

FLAC called on the Government to act on the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission.


Editors' notes:

  1. FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent human rights organisation dedicated to the realisation of equal access to justice for all. It campaigns through advocacy, strategic litigation and authoritative analysis to contribute to the eradication of social and economic exclusion.
  2. Information on FLAC's case on the rights of deaf people to be jurors is available in a past issue of FLAC News.
  3. The Law Reform Commission published its consultation paper on Jury Service on 29 March.