We support more inclusive juries

We support more inclusive juries

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

We have made a submission to the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s (VLRC) review into inclusive juries, supporting change to reduce barriers that prevent people with disabilities participating in juries.

‘We support the right of people with disability to participate in all aspects of public life. People with lived experience of disability should be able to contribute their important perspective as jurors,’ said Prita Jobling-Baker, Manager of Strategic Advocacy and Policy, Criminal Law.

The submission notes there is an existing need for technological enhancements in the courtroom, such as hearing loops, and this will have broader benefits for all participants, including judges, lawyers, parties to proceedings and witnesses.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are disproportionately represented in the Victorian criminal justice system as defendants but are disproportionately unrepresented on juries. The VLRC consultation paper highlights the disproportionately high rate of vision and hearing impairments amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, noting that the First Peoples Disability Network reports that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are ‘10 times more likely to live with hearing impairments than the rest of the population’ and rates of low vision and blindness are three times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

‘Additional factors routinely exclude Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from juror participation, including higher rates of incarceration’, said Prita. ‘Removing barriers to juror participation due to vision and hearing impairments can increase access for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’, she said.

While we support facilitating increased access to jury participation, inclusivity measures must also ensure an accused person’s right to a fair trial. Jurors have a critical, sometimes difficult role in assessing the evidence presented at trial, and they are asked to decide the facts on their understanding of the evidence. Our submission provides suggestions for the empanelment process, supports and trial adjustments.

Our submission gives in-principle support to altering the longstanding common law exclusion of non-jurors from the jury room to enable Auslan interpreters. We note some of the concerns raised by practitioners and encourage a review of the reforms to assess the operation in practice and also encourage further Victorian research into the operation of juries.

More information

Read our Submission to the Victorian Law Reform Commission Inclusive juries review.

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