Judge and Jury

judgeI was summoned to Jury duty. Being deaf I had the right to withdraw. But being Gary I decided that I wanted the experience (I have a big grin as I write that) Anyway I rang the courts through the relay service. Even before I had said anything through the relay service the court register said, “You can withdraw and anyway it is not possible for a deaf person to do jury duty”, or words to that effect. I asked why not and the register said, “Because we don’t have the facilities to meet your needs.”

Anyway I said that they could book captions or sign language interpreters and that doing so was easy. I said something along the lines that it was my right as a civilian to be able to participate in Jury duty if I so chose. This was enough for the register, obviously a junior, to handball me to the senior. He asked how the senior  could call me back and I said for him to give me the number so I could call him. Too often you give numbers and they never call back and this is what I do to ensure that they do not fob me off. (Imagine me with another big grin) The junior then said that he would transfer me to the senior – quite why he could not do that in the first place I do not know. Of course I was having immense fun and wish I could have seen the juniors face at the other end as we communicated. At the same time I had some friends open on MSN and was copying and pasting the convo for their amusement.  (Imagine me with an enormous grin)

Anyway the senior came on the line and the change was instant. He said it was no problem and asked what he needed to do. I gave him the interpreter booking contacts etc and within minutes he had actually contacted the service to try and secure a booking. As it turned out, because the notice was short (I received the jury  letter while away for work) the shortage of interpreters meant that it was unlikely that the required number of level 3 interpreters could be secured for all the days required.

I have since emailed the register and withdrawn and thanked him for his prompt action and willingness to give it a go. I have requested that he allow me to meet him so that we can discuss the issue in more detail and so that I can inform him of the options and the processs etc.

It got me thinking that this is an area that many people who are deaaf who are disabled are probably being denied opportunities. It is certainly true that some will not want to do jury duty and it is equally true that some more adventerous souls like me will be more than interested in participating as is my right.

In the scheme of things this does not seem a big deal but if I were to be the accused or a defendent you can bet your bottom dollar that interpreters would be organised or captions would be organised  IF requested. If not requested I shudder to think what would happen.

There are, of course, other issues for the courts beyond dury duty. Like what happens if interpreters are provided or captions for a deaf defendant and the deaf person has poor literacy and language development. I am sure there are similar situations for the disabled. I was at a talk about learning disabilities recently where the speaker pointed out that you can almost pick which people with learning disabilities will end up in jail by grade three and commented on the huge number of people with some form of disability or other who are in jail.

So apart from jury duty we would appear to have an enormous issue on our hands. While we are concentrating on what I call the BLUE RIBBON issues like interpreters, captioning, building access etc etc this is an area that does not get a lot of attention.

I wonder if this is something we need to pick up and discuss and see what can be done.  Certainly while we concentrate on the Blue Ribbon issues we allow a lot to slip under the radar.

21 thoughts on “Judge and Jury

  1. I’ve been called up for Jury Duty on two occasions within a space of a year, unfortunately I was unable to attend due to uni exams at the time so I was easily excused (my future is far more important than some delinquent facing jail time).

    Anyway next time this happens I am will be signing up for it, you can bet your life on that.

  2. “(my future is far more important than some delinquent facing jail time).”

    What happen to “innocent until proven guilty.” ?

  3. I’ve served jury duty. You have to give plenty of advance notice.

    Shirking one’s civic duty just because you’re deaf is really not a good excuse, but worse is the courts not providing accomodations.

    There are now ADA laws in effect, that with enough advance notice, the courts really have no excuse. Period.

  4. Another case of one sharing a real life experience in Australia. It appears (like many government departments) tha new staff are not taught about disability access issues as part of their induction process otherwise Gary would not have had to endure the treatment he has received.

    Fortunately Gary was one of the very few people who was assertive enough to challenge the decision being made but I wonder how many slip through the net.

    The court/jury system is an interesting area. Not only would you have the challenge to get ‘on’ the jury but also be accepted by the defence or prosecutor. The latter is which they often like to raise a person’s disability has a hindrance to the case before them. Eg: If we appoint a Deaf juror, he/she may not fully understand what is being communicated during the court case hence may not make better judgement at the crucial time. Or worse, criticise the interpreter ability to interprete correctly. And the list continues.

    Accessibility and acceptance are two areas we need to ensure that our right as a civilian are respected and not demoralised. We too have life experiences and can give sound judgement especially when a person’s future is at sake.

    Hopefully the new UN consitution will see a change in all that sooner than later.

  5. I absolutely agree Ann. But as you say it should be done PERIOD – Well this is Australia and we are nearly in a different period. I think some access America had that Australians still dont was granted around the time of Custers last stand (And thank god it was his last stand 🙂 )

    But seriously Australia has a long way to go.

  6. The US has a long way to go too. It depends which county you live in whether they actually accommodate you. Your chances are better in a large metro area than if you live in the country. By law, they are supposed to accommodate us, but I’ve known a good many who weren’t.

  7. Sorry, gazza, that you Aussies are having a lot of trouble getting the court systems in your country to understand accessibility issues. American deaf have the ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) to back them up now, when they request accomodations in public arenas, the courts are one such arena. There are still some parts of the country with court systems that are only beginning to catch up, so it’s still not a smooth process for some of us up north. But we’re making a dent at least. 🙂

  8. It’s a real problem in the UK, there are simply not enough interpreters to give deaf sign users access if they were given it to courts. Most deaf I know do shirk the jury duty, and actively refuse to go using the ‘deaf card’, stating “I couldn’t really follow properly, I woul dbe too self concious…”,this is very damnaging to the defa cause, in effect it cuts the ground right under access. I recall years ago a deaf juror being excused on the grounds “I am deaf I do not have any hearing awareness to be on a jury trying a hearing person…”, the lawyer immediately objected to all deaf people being called on to try the case.

    I find the rebuttal attitude, “But being Gary I decided that I wanted the experience.” (I have a big grin as I write that), not all that helpful, jury service is real recognition deaf can participate, and not a joke…. and the rebutall obviously NOT qualified for jury service !

  9. Ooops… sorry you don’t like my humor .. But if you read the article you see that I actually took it seriously and tried to make something happen.

    The grin occured because it was a meaty issue that I knew I could get my tweth into. YOu should not see it any other way. Hey we have to laugh more in this life and I tend to laugh a lot.


  10. Hey Gazza, don’t worry cos this is from a man who doesn’t swear very much. 😀

    I can report, in the UK, that I do frequently bump into interpreters on the trains covering court cases up and down the country and it feel like has been some time now that a case was thrown out of court due to interpreting issues. I do not know why MM is making a sweeping statement – perhaps he is not letting us onto something?

  11. Saltbar … The mans allowed his views. Perhaps he is a little to serious for us but hey who wants everyone to think the same.

  12. Gazza, MM, is well known in cyberspace as a sourpuss. While he is allowed his views, he trolls. And quite obviously he has missed the point of your get up and do attitude! So Saltbar, and I know what we are talking about.

    Excuse me while I go and approve my own comments!

  13. This issue has been broached in the UK quite a few times the past few years – several prominent people here have been called to jury duty. As far as I know no deaf person has actually sat on a jury, but I could be wrong.

    The issue is not access provison, or lack thereof. The issue is that a jury always is made up of 12 people and 12 people must be in the room and the decision must be made by 12 people. This is how it always has been and the legal system has evolved this way over the centuries.

    So to allow a thirteenth person in the room is anathema to the legals. The jury system needs to remain pure and a thirteenth person could unduly influence things.

    Epistemology considers that there is no such thing as passive participation in any activity – all participation is active no matter what the “passive” participant does – observing, studying, taking photos, interpreting etc. All participants are active and have the potential to change the outcome ultimately, so the end result of the activity in question cannot be considered “pure”.

    Besides the number 13 is considered unlucky by certain of us…

    So, what’s the solution? Remote interpreting via a CCTV hookup?

  14. I am totally confident UK statistics will prove deaf are virtually non-involved in accessing the Jury system in the UK, and equally confident a lack of interepreters is one reason, and a lack of desire to get involved another, those who make personal attack don’t know what they are talking about. Unsurprising as they (A) Are NOT deaf people and (B) NOt UK residents… check the addy’s 🙂

  15. MM certainly not UK residents nup … I reside in Australia as several of the responses to comments will show. I can assure you Paul who made a very intelligent response about interpreters being seen as an influental 13th person resides in the UK but is an Aussie while I am Brit who resides in Oz. Tony is deaf and has been for as long as I have known him. Saltar . .. Dunno him but seems a smart chap. All are Deaf, tho can not testify for Saltar … Personal attacks well … you made one on me and I acepted it with good grace.

    And finally it isn’t a competition to see who is right or wron, British or Deaf but a forum to discuss interesting issues.

    So .. Chillax … its the new word of the times.

  16. You forgot to mention I don’t do ‘buzz words’ either 🙂 It doesn’t matter how smart they are, they are not HERE, and I am. I would defer to you being an authority on OZ issues of deafness, but the people you mentioned (Banned on my blog anyway for good reason), mainly add their ten pence worth to get at me that way. I could suggest you refer to recent other deaf.read blogs of concern, these people use comment spots to attack other and undermine, my stance on the free speech’ of that is already well known, I DON’T buy it. I wouldn’t agree it was an attack on you personally only that you appeared to treat the issue of deaf access as some joke. As someone else stated I tend to take it more seriously.

  17. I thank you for your time. I won’t respond further to give them any more milage on their road to nowhere….

  18. MM you often have intelligent things to say so you’re welcome here anytime. Don’t want to get in the middle of what’s gone before. As I tell my kids .. Sort it out yourself … Not my problem …Cheers.

  19. One thing to bear in mind is that the Australian and UK legal systems are intricably linked. What happens in UK law has an effect on Australian law and vice versa. Predecents set in one country has the potential to be applicable in the other as long as it can be proven using legal arguments that one particular law can use precedents created by the other.

    It was only quite recently that the Privy Council in the UK was the highest court of appeal in Australian law, this was continued around 15 – 20 years aqo.

    I say this becauae some of you have been saying that what happens in the UK is not relevant in Australia. If you wish to consider the DDA in legislative terms, both countries have their own version of this particular act of Parliament, and neither are compatible with the other therefore neither can be used in the other country.

    However if a civil case (or tort) arose and the DDA was brought into proceedings then the interpetation of the DDA can use precedents and decisions set down by the other country. For example, the word “reasonable” which appears in both versions of the DDA. Everyone has their own definition of this term and it is theoretically possible to successfully apply the UK definiton in an Australian case.

  20. Just for the records, I attended PHUs in infant and junior school. Went to an infamous oral Deaf school. Had my own social worker for deaf. Received and receiving comms support in further/higher education and in workplace. 95% of my friends are all Deaf, to varying degree. My wife is Deaf. I use BSL at home and at work. If that doesn’t make me deaf, then dammit, maybe I should take my hearing aid off to complete the icing on the cake 😀

    Sorry, Gazza, I couldn’t resist this. I won’t muddy your waters again.

  21. You’re welcome Saltbar… A rant is good fort the soul … Anytime .. Blog politics is an entity into itself LOL

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