Deaf citizens as jurors in Australian courts: participating via professional interpreters

Sandra Hale, Mehera San Roque, David Spencer, Jemina Napier

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)


    Australian deaf citizens are currently not permitted to perform jury duty, primarily due to their inability to hear the evidence and deliberate without interpreters. Although interpreters are routinely employed to interpret for defendants or witnesses in court, current legal frameworks do not permit interpreters to enter the deliberation room as a ‘thirteenth person’, for fear that they may influence the jurors or become active participants in the decision-making. Other objections to allowing deaf citizens to act as jurors include uncertainty about their ability to participate fully in the discussions, the impact the deaf juror’s and interpreter’s presence may have on the dynamics of the deliberations and on turn-taking, and the logistics and cost involved. Yet, deaf citizens see it as their right to be able to perform this very important civic duty, and recent decisions at the international level indicate that excluding deaf citizens from jury duty should be considered unlawful discrimination. This article presents results from the analysis of the jury deliberations with one deaf juror and two Auslan1 interpreters, and from a focus group discussion with the eleven hearing jurors and an interview with the deaf juror about their experience. The jury deliberation is one section of a large-scale study on the participation of deaf jurors in a criminal trial with Auslan interpreters, in New South Wales.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)151-176
    Number of pages26
    JournalInternational Journal of Speech, Language and the Law
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • deaf jurors
    • Auslan interpreters
    • civil rights
    • jury deliberations
    • interpreters’ code of ethics

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