Woman fights to become Australia's first deaf juror

AN Ipswich woman is fighting to become Australia's first deaf juror through a discrimination case before the High Court in Brisbane.

Gaye Lyons, who is profoundly deaf, took action after she was excluded from an Ipswich District Court jury in 2012.

Kylie Nomchong, representing Ms Lyons, told the High Court on Monday that a deaf person should not be deprived of their civic right to be a juror because they have a special need "in the form of a human being" to help them do that role.

She conceded her client was not capable of performing the juror role without an Auslan interpreter but argued it was discrimination not to make provisions for deaf people to participate in the trial process.

Ms Nomchong rejected suggestions Queensland's Jury Act prohibited a 13th person, such as a translator, to be present for the 12-person jury deliberations.

She said the Anti-Discrimination Act required that the Deputy Registrar who excluded her client administer the Jury Act in "a non-discriminatory fashion".Ms Nomchong said Ms Lyons needed an Auslan interpreter to participate in a jury and she should not be discriminated against for that need; that provision for a 13th person should be made.

She said Ms Lyons should have been assessed on merit and capacity to decide a trial rather than a blanket ban on deaf people being involved in trials.

Walter Sofronoff, acting for the State of Queensland, said there was no option for an interpreter to swear an oath for their duty in court.

He also said it was not possible to monitor, test or challenge an Auslan interpreter's translations to a deaf juror.

Ms Nomchong said such suggestions were "scare tactics" and that courts around the country put their faith into jury members and witnesses every day.

She said if there were mistranslations it would become immediately obvious during the jury deliberations, as it would be to a hearing juror who misunderstood evidence presented to the court.

The High Court has reserved its decision.

Topics:  court deaf jury

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