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Case Analysis Of Lyons V Queensland

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Question:

Analysis the Case of Lyons v Queensland.
 
 

Answer:

Lyons v Queensland [2016] HCA 38

The case has recently been in limelight as it involved contradiction of two statues. The plaintiff in this case was a deaf woman who was not allowed to serve as a jury based on her impairment. The woman had filed a claim based on direct and indirect disability discrimination in the Queensland court. the plaintiff in spite of her disability was a good lip reader but only required an Auslan interpreter when she communicated with people not knowing Auslan[1]. She was not given a chance to be the juror by the deputy registrar based on section 4(3)(1) of the Jury Act 1995[2]. According to the section people having physical or mental disability which would come between their works were not allowed to be jurors. The application of the plaintiff was based on the provisions of The Anti-discrimination Act 1991 (Qld)[3]. According to the legislation the employers are not allowed to discriminate between individuals based on their disabilities. The application was rejected by the Queensland court and hence the plaintiff filed an appeal in the Queensland court of appeal. The QCA also rejected the claim of the plaintiff which was further put up at the High court. The question before the court was to decide whether the actions of the deputy registrar in relation to not allowing the plaintiff to serve as a juror accounted to unlawful discrimination or not.

The rule of law which the decision of the court was based on the common law provision was that the jury must be kept separate. The court held that allowing the plaintiff an interpreter would cause the presence of an extra person in the jury room whose presence could influence the decision of the jury irrespective of the person’s participation in the decision making process. The court ruled that the members of the jury have freedom to speak only to fellow jurors and not any third person and they are accountable to the overall decision of the jury. Therefore presence of a third person cannot be allowed by the court. The court also rejected the application of the plaintiff based on Section 54(1) of the Jury Act. The plaintiff claimed that the section extends to granting leave to an interpreter. The court rejected the claim of the plaintiff suggesting that the rule is subjected to exceptions with respect to officers who are in charge of duty.

It was provided by the GAGELER J. in this case that one of the major functions of the jurors with respect to the jury act was to communicate with fellow jurors privately so that a verdict can be given. A person who is requires an interpreter to communicate with the fellow jurors does not have the capacity to effectively perform her duties under the provisions of Section 4(3)(1) of the Jury Act.

The judge ruled with respect to the claim of the plaintiff in relation to discrimination that the deputy registrar did not breach Section 101 of the Anti-discrimination Act not allowing a person to sit in a jury because of incapacity is not discrimination under the ADA.

 


The ADA has the purpose of establishing equality and abolishing discrimination in specified areas of activity however there are exceptional areas where the discrimination act does not apply[4]. The area of implementing state laws and state programs are given in part 4 through Section 101 in the ADA. According the the section an individual who performs an exercise or function under state government programs or state law and has responsibility of administrating the conduct of state law and government program must not do any discrimination with respect to performance of such function, exercise of power and carrying out responsibilities. The judge held that the prohibition of the plaintiff by the registrar to act as a juror was not in relation to any function as described in section 101. The deputy registrar did so in order to carry out her responsibilities with respect to the jury act by attempting to give effect to Section 4(3)(1) of thee legislation. The judge in addition referred to section 106 of the ADA according to which a person was entitled take a course of action which is necessary to do or is authorized by any provisions of a separate legislation. Thus the high court dismissed the appeal against the decision of QCA.

The decision made by the court is not only disappointing in relation to disability rights but it has also highlighted the disability of the High court to handle direct contradictory dispute between two legislations of the same state[5].  The courts in this case choose to suppress the ADA by prevailing the provisions of the Jury Act. In the case the conflict between the two legislations were only acknowledged by Gageler J. in his separate judgment.  However there may be various comments on the judgment but apparently it was seen that the court disregarded the ADA.

With respect to matters relating to discrimination the judgment is going to have significant impact on future cases. The success rate of discrimination claims in Australia is significantly low and the judgment would do no good for its enhancement[6]. Socially the judgment would be a huge discourage factor for the people suffering with disabilities. The public will get the apprehension that discrimination legislations have no relevance in the court and the other legislations would always prevail over them. On the other hand the judgment ensured that no compromise is done with the procedure of the court proceedings.  The judgment ensured the common law rule that the judiciary must be kept separate even though the presence of the interpreter would have practically had no impact on the decision of the judges. The decision also shows the inconsistence in statutory law which is one of the reasons for choosing it over common law. The courts along with the parliament must ensure that there are no future conflict between legislations as such situation not only create confusion for the judges but also increase the hardship for the parties to the suit.

 

References

Bryan, Michael, et al. A Sourcebook on Equity and Trusts in Australia. Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Dietrich, Joachim, and Pauline Ridge. Accessories in Private Law. Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Lyons v Queensland [2016] HCA 38

The Anti-discrimination Act 1991 (Qld).

The Jury Act 1995

Yuile, Andrew. "The latest from the high court." LSJ: Law Society of NSW Journal 29 (2016):

Lyons v Queensland [2016] HCA 38

The Jury Act 1995

The Anti-discrimination Act 1991 (Qld).

Yuile, Andrew. "The latest from the high court." LSJ: Law Society of NSW Journal 29 (2016): 94.

Bryan, Michael, et al. A Sourcebook on Equity and Trusts in Australia. Cambridge University Press, 2016.

Dietrich, Joachim, and Pauline Ridge. Accessories in Private Law. Cambridge University Press, 2016.

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