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Deaf juror believed to be a legal first

Deaf juror believed to be a legal first
2nd September 2019 Ian Streets

A technology consultant from London is believed to have established a legal landmark by becoming the first profoundly deaf person to sit on a jury in a crown court in England and Wales.
The Guardian reported that Matthew Johnston served on three trials during a two-week period at Blackfriars crown court. He read subtitles from courtroom stenographers and relied on his lip-reading skills to participate in deliberations. Mr Johnston has a small amount of hearing as a result of his cochlear implant, and is able to speak.
Deaf people have previously been denied the opportunity to serve on juries in the UK as many rely on sign language interpreters and English and Welsh law prohibits the presence in the jury deliberation room of anybody except the 12 sworn jurors.
Mr Johnston initially received a jury summons in January but had a request for a stenographer refused for lack of finances. He arranged a meeting with court officials to discuss how he could still fulfil his civic duty, assuring them he did not require a sign language interpreter and noting that the round table in the jury deliberation room would allow him to lip-read his fellow jurors.
Mr Johnston told The Guardian deaf people are usually automatically precluded from selection but insisted that was a mistake as effective methods of communication exist for many.
He said: “They wanted to see me, how deaf I was, how well I could lip-read, and when they met me there was no problem.”
After being convinced of Mr Johnston’s ability to serve without hindrance, and after discussions with a judge, the officials secured financing for a two-person team of stenographers to transcribe everything spoken in court, which Mr Johnston read on a tablet device.
He sat on three separate trials and served as foreman of the jury for two of them.
He said: “I think that made the deliberations clearer, more structured. They had confidence in me.
“It’s all about inclusivity. It’s a big thing for me. We don’t want to turn our backs to society, we want to be part of society. We want to feel included. I feel great that I can be one of a jury.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman told The Guardian: “Every effort is made to make sure people with hearing difficulties can serve on juries, and we are harnessing technology like hearing loops and computer-aided transcription services to improve accessibility even further.”
The Ministry says it is examining developments in potential new technology, including voice recognition software or simultaneous transcripts, that could provide technical assistance to those who are profoundly deaf.


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