Making jury service more accessible for jurors

Nov 28, 2019

From today, Thursday 28 November 2019, the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service will be offering a new service to people with a visual impairment or who are hard of hearing and have been cited to attend court as a juror.

 Why are these changes being introduced?

 In February 2018, Lord Matthews published a report Enabling Jury Service that made a series of recommendations, including what reasonable adjustments and measures the SCTS could put in place to widen the accessibility for as many people as possible to serve on juries.

 The new services that will be available are: 

  • Easy-to-use magnifiers for people with visual impairments, for use in the courtroom and jury deliberations; 
  • Easy-to use hearing loop units for people who are hard of hearing, for use in the courtroom and jury deliberations; 
  • Dedicated and trained Jury Liaison Officers, who can be contacted by persons with a visual impairment or who are hard of hearing in advance of attending court as a juror. This will allow the needs of the individual to be explored and any suitable adjustments to be considered and implemented, where possible; 
  • Information Sheet in various formats – including a video with British Sign Language and subtitles – available on the SCTS website, aimed at encouraging early contact between the person cited for jury service and the Jury Liaison Officer for that court.

 In developing these services, we have worked closely with deafscotland and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) who contributed to the training of our Jury Liaison Officers.

 In launching the new services, Lord Matthews, who chaired the Enabling Jury Service working group, said: “Access to justice is normally talked about in connection with victims, potential litigants and persons accused of crime but there is more to it than that. Another aspect of it is that people who wish to play a part in the administration of justice by serving on a jury ought to be able to do so. Such service is not only a duty and a privilege but a democratic right.

 “For too long, people with certain disabilities have been deprived of that right in a way which would, quite properly, be considered unacceptable in other walks of life.  Advances in technology are changing the way courts operate and it is only right that advantage be taken of those to assist people with disabilities to participate in the serious decisions which are at the heart of our criminal justice system. It is heartening, therefore, to note the new services which are being launched. These are, of course, only the first steps on what may be a long journey but that is how every journey starts and I look forward to seeing how things develop.”

 Welcoming the new services, SCTS Chief Executive Eric McQueen said: “I am grateful for the work that Lord Matthews has led and delighted that we are now introducing these new measures.  Jury service is a crucial part of the justice system and it is right that the full, diverse identity of Scottish society is represented in those who perform this civic duty.  These measures are a very important step in enabling wider access to our justice system for everyone.”

 Janis McDonald, Chief Officer deafscotland said: “At deafscotland we were keen to support the improvement of access to jury duty for people affected by deafness. Whilst there are still some challenges, a great number of barriers have been reduced through the work of the redesign team. The whole service has a greater awareness of the challenges those affected by deafness face and a much clearer range of solutions that are rights based and person centred. We welcome this development.”

 Iain Kennedy, UK Training and Development Manager at RNIB said: “RNIB were pleased to be involved in this development that is working towards systematically removing barriers and enabling equal participation in society for people with sight loss. The series of workshops created a framework for change by facilitating a greater understanding of the broad spectrum of sight loss.”

 How can I access the new service?

 The first step to accessing the new service is to contact the court you have been cited for, using the telephone number or email address which is contained on the first page of your citation. The Jury Liaison Officer for that court can then arrange to contact you and for you to come in to visit the court and jury room layout if you wish to consider being a juror.  During these discussions, your specific needs can be explored. The final decision on whether a person with a visual impairment or who is hard of hearing can serve as a juror will rest with the judiciary, as necessary. Individuals can, of course, also be excused from jury service in these circumstances, if that is what they would prefer.



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