Discrimination law, deafness & jury service: High Court of Australia

Lyons v Queensland [2016] HCA 38 required the High Court to consider argument as to whether the Deputy Registrar of the Ipswich District Court Registry unlawfully discriminated against the appellant by excluding her from a jury panel because the appellant, a profoundly deaf person, required the services of an Australian Sign Language (Auslan) interpreter.

In considering that question, the Court briefly discussed direct and indirect discrimination under the Anti-Discrimination Act 1991 (QLD): [3] – [4].

The majority ultimately concluded at [37] that:

It may be, as the appellant submits, that the secrecy of the jury’s deliberations would not be compromised by the presence of an accredited Auslan interpreter in the jury room during the jury’s deliberations. Nonetheless, Douglas J was right to hold that, absent specific legislative provision for that to occur, Queensland law does not permit an Auslan interpreter to be present during the jury’s deliberations.

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