The Question: Should prison sentences be automatically reduced for deaf people?

Posted on August 13, 2013

Last week, a deaf man from Kent was convicted of raping a 21-year-old Norwich woman and given a five year jail sentence, which the judge said would have been six if it were not for his deafness.

Andrew Oruovo was in Norwich City centre and took a woman back to his hotel room where her raped her in April last year. Presiding Judge Alasdair Darroch said: “In this case you were out on the street in the early hours and to your knowledge there were vulnerable young women about. I won’t say that you deliberately targeted this woman, I certainly won’t say that you abducted her in the sense of forcing her along the road. I accept it was persuasion rather than physical violence or threat.

“Nevertheless you knew that she was vulnerable, she was unknown to you. You had absolutely no reason to think that she would agree to sexual intercourse with you. In a very short time and against her will you had raped her.”

LIMPING-THINKEROruovo spent time on remand in prison awaiting his trial. He said of prison that it was impossible to join in on training or educational courses because the prison service has no deaf awareness training and this caused him an additional burden, something that the judge recognised. Judge Darroch said that he would have sentenced him to six years but Oruovo’s deafness would make the sentence ‘more difficult and more onerous’.

It’s the first we have heard of a prison sentence being reduced for deafness but it could have happened before. A survey conducted in 2011 revealed that there are 135 deaf of hard of hearing prisoners in England or Wales with only 12 that use sign language.

Earlier this year a study revealed that profoundly deaf prisoners are missing out on important services that could help their rehabilitation because the Prison Service cannot provide for their needs. It seems the judge was ready to accept that argument and that resulted in a shorter term for Andrew Oruovo. Last year authorities in the US were forced to payout $600,000 the family of a deaf man in prison after he committed suicide.

So the question for you is this: Is being deaf in prison more of a punishment than being hearing in prison? Should prison sentences be shorter for deaf people? Is a shorter sentence for a deaf person fair? Should the prison service do more for deaf prisoners? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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Posted in: The Question