When Emma Ferguson-Coleman received a jury service summons, she wrote to HM Courts and Tribunal Service informing them that as a profoundly deaf person, she needed an interpreter in order to follow both the court proceedings as well as deliberations in the jury room.
Their response was to send her a letter informing her that they were unable to accept her as a member of the jury, primarily because only jurors are allowed to be present in the jury room (an interpreter would constistute a ’13th person’).
The letter also quoted section 9B of the Jury Act 1974, as seen below:
Ferguson-Coleman told me that “I am gutted that I am perceived not to have the capacity to make those types of decisions. It doesn’t help to hear from our American counterparts that they have been successfully selected and have taken part as equal citizens. How did it make me feel? Like a second class citizen.”
In an article for the Guardian online in 2010, journalist Cathy Heffernan argued that “for the UK jury system to work it needs to prioritise inclusivity – and that means allowing deaf people to sit as jurors, too.” Heffernan found that in the Irish justice system she was also deemed ‘incapable’ and barred from being part of a jury.
As the letter Ferguson-Coleman received shows, deaf people are still barred from jury service and it could be argued that the references in section 9B that refer to a “doubt as to his/her capacity to act effectively as a juror” deems deaf people as being of lesser capacity than their hearing counterparts.
Second class citizens? Sounds about right.
By Charlie Swinbourne
The Limping Chicken is the UK’s deaf blogs and news website, and is the world’s most popular deaf blog. It is edited by Deaf journalist and filmmaker Charlie Swinbourne.
Please note that the views of the writers are their own, and not necessarily the views of the Editor or site as a whole. Read our disclaimer here.
- Ai-Media: Remote captioning. How to make Live Automated Captions with Apple’s Latest 'Clips' App
- Bellman & Symfon: home alerting solutions
- Deaf Umbrella: sign language interpreting and communications support
- Appa: Communication services for Deaf, Deafblind and hard of hearing people
- SignLive: Online video interpreting for Deaf people
- SignVideo: Instant BSL video interpreting online
- 121 Captions: captioning and speech-to-text services
- Hearing Direct: Online hearing aids
- Signature: Leading awarding body for BSL qualifications
- Signworld: Learn BSL online!
- Cast Theatre, Doncaster: The UK's the UK’s first fully BSL integrated pantomime
- The National Theatre: Captioned and BSL accessible theatre in London
- Doncaster School for the Deaf: education for Deaf children
- Hamilton Lodge School in Brighton: education for Deaf children
- Lipspeaker UK: specialist lipspeaking support
- Ozen: Australian hearing aid specialists
- Elmfield School, Bristol: Inclusive education for Deaf pupils
- deafPLUS: BSL advice helpline
- Exeter Deaf Academy: education for Deaf children
- Royal Shakespeare Company: Captioned and BSL interpreted performances (see dates here)
- Royal School for the Deaf, Derby: Residential education for deaf children
- RAD Tax Advice: Tax and Tax Credit info for Deaf people
- Deaf Independent: Deaf care and support services
- Performance Interpreting: BSL interpreting at concerts
- National Deaf Children's Society: The leading charity for deaf children
- cSeeker: Deaf-led educational communication support service
- Signed Culture: Advocating for BSL access to arts and culture
- SignHealth: healthcare charity for Deaf people
- CJ Interpreting: communication support in BSL
- Sign Solutions:, language and learning
- Action Deafness Communications: sign language and Red Dot online video interpreting
- BSLcourses.co.uk: Provider of online BSL courses
- British Society for Mental Health and Deafness: Promoting positive mental health for deaf people