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This briefing paper is one of a collection of Commons Library briefing papers on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (the Bill). It deals only with the provisions in Part 12 of the Bill which concern juries, the transmission and recording of court and tribunal proceedings, and live links in criminal courts. Briefing papers dealing with other parts of the Bill and general background are available on the Commons Library website


Clause 164 would amend the law to permit British Sign Language interpreters in jury deliberation rooms, to enable profoundly deaf people who use sign language to serve as jurors. There is currently a common law rule against a ‘13th person’ on a jury or in the deliberation room. This effectively prohibits deaf people reliant on sign language from serving as jurors as there is no way of legally accounting for the presence of an interpreter in the jury room.

The clause has been welcomed by the British Deaf Association, although the Government has acknowledged that it excludes other individuals with disabilities who, in order to serve effectively as a juror, would require the assistance of a third party. The Government has said it will keep this issue under review.

Courts and tribunals

Clauses 166 to 169 and Schedule 19 would replace temporary provisions in the Coronavirus Act 2020 relating to live video and audio court hearings in criminal courts, and the broadcast and recording of video and audio proceedings in courts and tribunals. New permanent (and in some cases expanded) provisions would be added to the Courts Act 2003 and the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

The Government said the aim of the temporary measures in the 2020 Act was to ensure that courts could “continue to function and remain open to the public, without the need for participants to attend in person”.

The 2020 Act is due to expire in March 2022, at which point these temporary provisions will cease to be available. Background on the 2020 Act is set out in Library Briefing Paper 8865 Coronavirus Bill: implications for the courts and tribunals.

An overview of clauses 166 to 169 is set out in the Government’s fact sheet on these provisions. Detailed guidance is set out in paragraphs 1172 to 1230 of the Explanatory Notes.

The Government says these provisions will mean greater efficiency, flexibility and accessibility, and fewer delays. However, others – including the Justice Committee and legal charities – have raised concerns about the ability of (often vulnerable) lay people to engage with ‘virtual justice’ and to consult legal representatives in confidence.

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