Mock criminal trial to determine if deaf people should serve as jurors

A landmark mocktrial taken place in Sydney to determine if deaf Australians would be able to serve as jurors.

Statue of Justice (File: AAP)

Statue of Justice (File: AAP)

A two-day mock criminal trial has taken place in Sydney to try and determine if deaf Australians would be able to serve as jurors.

The University of New South Wales led the mock trial which is the first of its kind in Australia.

Deaf people are unable to become jurors because of a longstanding legal principle that excludes all non-jurors, including interpreters, from the jury room.

Final decision on deaf jurors still out, SBS Radio's Peggy Giakoumelos reports.

Professor Sandra Hale, from the school of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of NSW is leading the study.

She says there is evidence suggesting many deaf people would welcome the chance to become jurors.

"The idea came from the fact that deaf people want to participate as citizens. They are Australian citizens, and they feel like they would like to serve as jurors just like any other citizen has or may have that opportunity," Professor Hale said. 

The mock trial which took place in a Parramatta courtroom in Sydney's west, included a combination of hearing and deaf jurors, a retired judge, two police officers and two witnesses played by actors.

Interpreters were used to assess if deaf people can participate as jurors.

While a mock trial has never been tested before Professor Hale says there has been Australian research looking at how effective interpreters for the deaf are in courtrooms.

"The results were that they could understand as much and sometimes even more than the hearing jurors. That was something that led us to look at the full mock trial situation," she said. 

The mock trial was filmed so that the courtroom interactions could be analysed by the academic team.

Australia is the first country to explore the issue in depth although some states in the USA already allow deaf jurors in court trials.

2 min read
Published 17 July 2014 at 3:04pm
By Peggy Giakoumelos
Source: SBS Radio