Letter: Trial by jury

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The Independent Culture
Sir: James Strachan (letter, 17 May) is to be admired for the exceptional way in which he has overcome his own handicap. Unfortunately, many deaf people do not have the same skills and facilities. After a lifetime coping with deafness, I know that most deaf people do not communicate by sign language. Lip-reading is a difficult skill to master and almost impossible to practise in adverse circumstances.

In a courtroom one needs to "hear" judge, counsel, barristers, defendant, witnesses; not just hear some of what they say but every single word, every nuance. The various speakers are in different positions, possibly in different lighting conditions, some even behind screens. All these factors are crucial to the deaf.

The jury room presents serious problems for those dependent upon a hearing aid or lip-reading. With the possible exception of those who use sign language, jury service presents insuperable problems to most people who have severe deafness. If it is ever my misfortune to be a defendant in court I would certainly challenge any juror with defective hearing.

Mr Strachan envisages every courtroom being equipped with "adequate communication support". Can this expense be justified? Would it really enable all deaf people to "understand and comprehend" as clearly as a person with good hearing? I rather doubt it.


Croydon, Surrey