People with disabilities can now be jurors under courts Bill

Ian Bushnell 21 March 2018
Law Courts ACT

Photo: File photo.

A number of changes to courts legislation designed to update and simplify procedures – including the making of oaths, jury selection and the taking of evidence from overseas – have been passed in the Legislative Assembly.

Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said the changes passed in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday (20 March) would create further efficiencies and make justice easier to access through the ACT’s courts and tribunal.

“The Courts and Other Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 will reduce red tape and increase access to justice through amendments identified by senior legal stakeholders and recent decisions of ACT courts,” Mr Ramsay said.

“The courts will now have a simplified process for taking evidence from overseas using audio-visual or audio links and the process for the enforcement of ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal orders has been clarified.”

The Juries Act 1967 has been amended to modernise and streamline jury processes, including reforms to better support the inclusion of people with a disability as jurors.

“Following these reforms, ACT jury provisions will be among the most inclusive in Australia. Disability should not stand in the way of someone being able to participate in jury service,” Mr Ramsay said.

Changes have also been made to the ACT’s coronial system, with the Bill including amendments to reduce the rate of invasive autopsies.

It also broadens the application of an existing safeguard requiring a coroner to consider how to minimise distress or offence to a person because of their cultural attitudes or spiritual beliefs.

“Assisting coronial investigations to run smoothly helps to ensure the deceased and their families are treated with dignity and respect,” Mr Ramsay said.

“Sensitive consideration of cultural attitudes and spiritual beliefs throughout the coronial process will help to minimise distress to families during what is already a difficult time.”

Other amendments update the text of oaths and affirmations to better reflect the ACT’s diverse population and other faiths.

They also assist the fair resolution of energy and water complaints; better reflect in legislation the expanded role of the Supreme Court’s Associate Judge; and improve the reporting process for complaints about judicial officers.

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