Australia

Gaye Lyons: Australian deaf woman loses legal battle to be juror

Gaye Lyons in front of the court Image copyright ABC Australia
Image caption Ms Lyons said she really wanted to take part in jury duty

A woman from Queensland has lost her legal battle to become the first deaf juror in Australia.

Gaye Lyons' fight began when she was prevented from being a juror for a trial near Brisbane in 2012.

She argued the Queensland government unlawfully discriminated against her by refusing to provide an interpreter, but the High Court unanimously disagreed.

"Why should the powers that be decide what's right for me," she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

"Why should they decide what I can and can't do."

"Jury duty was something I really wanted to take part in."

Ms Lyons can lip-read but needs an Australian Sign Language interpreter to communicate.

Image caption The court concluded the law does not allow for a 13th person in the jury room

The court said the law did not permit an interpreter to assist when the jury was in confidential deliberations, which would make her unable to perform her duties as a juror.

The "decision not to include the appellant in a jury panel did not constitute unlawful discrimination in the performance of her functions or the exercise of her powers under Queensland law," the ruling said.

Ms Lyons, 69, rejected concerns raised by lawyers for the government about ensuring the accuracy of translations, noting that interpreters were already allowed in other court proceedings.

Describing the verdict as "disappointing", the Disabled People's Organisations Australia called for Queensland law to be changed to allow deaf people to serve as jurors.

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