Deaf woman told she can’t be on a jury because she needs an interpreter

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Pauline Latchem - Photo courtesy of iNews inews.co.uk

Ms Pauline Latchem was told her deafness may impact her ability to carry out jury service.

Pauline Latchem was told she could not serve on a jury because a BSL interpreter would not be able to translate the trial.

The 63-year-old received a letter earlier this month, informing her that she would serve as a juror at Wood Green Crown Court, London. With her letter, she needed to submit an access form. She completed the form, informing them of her requirement to have BSL interpreters and note-takers, only for her to be told she couldn’t serve on a jury.

The summons board emailed her, thanking her for completing the form. the reason being that her lack of hearing ‘may well impact on my ability to carry out my jury service’ and that ‘jurors are not allowed to have interpreters’ under the 13th juror rule.

Deaf jurors are allowed to serve on a jury in American and Irish law, but not in the UK. A BSL interpreter would be considered a ‘stranger’ in a UK court and a 13th member of the jury. Interpreters would not be allowed to translate the jury room discussion because it would breach confidentiality.

 “My immediate feeling was that I was annoyed and irritated that banning me from being a juror was couched as an excuse – as if they were doing me a favour.” – Pauline Latchem.

Ms Latchem is appealing their decision –

“I replied on 11th January that I do not wish to be excused and asking for them to make reasonable adjustments as is my right under the law. I have not yet received acknowledgement nor response.”

She has also argued that her serving on the jury would benefit both her and hearing jurors –

“I’ve worked with sign language interpreters in sensitive settings such as mental health and counselling services for over 25 years without any problems. Hearing people I have worked with have valued my insight and contributions and not found the interpreters intrusive.”

She also pointed out that BSL interpreters would be there for everyone – not just for her, as hearing people would need the interpreters to communicate with her too.

“We are modernising courts to make them more accessible, such as Induction Loop Systems, Computer Aided Transcription and shorthand writers to transcribe the proceedings in court allowing the juror to lip read in the deliberating room. We are reviewing the law in this area to try and open up the justice system further.” – Ministry of Justice spokesperson.

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