The Exclusion of Persons with Disabilities from Undertaking Jury Service: An International Human Rights Law Perspective

The Centre for Disability Studies,cordially invite you to attend a public seminar by Prof. Charles O'Mahony (NUI Galway).

Abstract

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) opened for signature and ratification in 2006. It is the single most exciting development to take place in the disability field for many decades. It has brought about a worldwide process of law reform over the past decade as State Parties have sought to bring their domestic law into compliance with the underlying values and obligations contained in the Convention.  One notable area where there has been little research is on laws and policies that exclude persons with disabilities from serving as jurors in civil and criminal proceedings.

Trial by jury is an important component of the justice system in common law jurisdictions around the world. Juries are composed of eligible persons (generally citizens) who are randomly selected from registers of eligible voters. The role of the juror is an important one in facilitating community participation in the administration of justice and an important principle of jury selection is that juries are broadly representative of the community. The right to a fair trial of an accused person necessitates that persons undertaking the role of juror have the ability to discharge the functions of a juror.  However, persons with disabilities have been excluded from jury service based on assumptions that their impairment makes them ‘unfit’ to serve on juries (see the relevant Irish legislation the Juries Act 1976). These and similar provisions tend in effect to be blanket bans on participation and do not require the court administration to provide reasonable accommodation to facilitate participation.

This paper considers how the CRPD can be used as a tool to challenge laws and policies that exclude persons with disability from jury service. The paper will engage with the arguments for ineligibility of deaf and hearing-impaired persons for jury service for example the right to a fair trial of the defendant and the jury secrecy rule. The paper will outline current law reform trends and the relevant case law on the eligibility of persons with disabilities for jury service with a view to identifying effective strategies to challenge the exclusion of persons with disabilities from jury service.

About the Speaker

Charles is the Head of School at NUI Galway since 2017, having joined the School of Law in 2012. He completed a PhD at the Centre for Disability Law and Policy, NUI Galway entitled “Diversion: A Comparative Study of Law and Policy Relating to Defendants and Offenders with Mental Health Problems and Intellectual Disability”. Charles was elected as President of the Irish Association of Law Teachers (IALT) from 2014-2016. He previously worked as Amnesty International Ireland’s Legal Officer on its mental health campaign and as a legal researcher for the Law Reform Commission of Ireland. He was awarded a LLM from University College London and a LLM in Public Law from NUI Galway.  He completed a BA in Law and History and a LLB at NUI Galway.

Location Details

Seminar Room 1.24
Maurice Keyworth Building
Leeds University Business School
University of Leeds
LS2 9JT

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This event is free to attend, but registration is required:

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Undergraduate open day