Gwynedd Parry at the University of Swansea has written up his 2006 paper on minority languages and jury service (which I missed in its original form, at the International Academy of Lingustic Law’s conference, being in another room at the time!). It’s published in the latest edition (June 2007, v 27 no 2) of Legal Studies, the house journal of the Society of Legal Scholars, which arrived in these parts earlier this week. The article is also available in HTML and PDF, but behind a paywall (most academic users should be able to see the pages if proxy settings are correct and your institution has subscribed, though).
Parry is arguing from a ‘citizenship’ point of view, rather than focusing on the ‘lingustic rights of the defendant’, and I think that is a wise choice. Outlining the legislative and constitutional backgrounds to both jury service and language rights in Ireland and Wales (and Canada for comparative purposes), he concludes that: “as far as jury service is concerned, speakers of Scottish Gaelic and Welsh are not ‘citizens“. With regard to Irish, he’s highly critical of the Mac Cárthaigh decision (where an applicant failed in his bid to secure an Irish-speaking jury). Continuing through an analysis of European and international law (primarily soft law and unimplemented treaties, mind you), he also addresses the problems that an attempt to provide for bilingual juries would face: including the challenge they would pose to ‘random selection’ principles. He does us the service of even setting out a draft amendment to the relevant provisions of the Juries Act, and concludes by returning to the citizenship point:
Jury service is an important obligation of citizenship. It is also a privilege of citizenship. Historically, ‘villeins and aliens’ and the politically disenfranchised were excluded from it. In present times, the rules on jury service eligibility in Wales and Ireland betray the fact that, despite the legislative reforms of recent years, Irish and Welsh-speakers continue to be treated as inferior citizens. Their citizenship is incomplete, because, as Irish and Welsh-speakers, they are disqualified from jury service. As this paper has sought to demonstrate, rectifying that injustice will not fundamentally undermine the jury as an institution, but will act as further affirmation of the full citizenship of the speakers of these ancient languages, and their right, as speakers of these languages, to participate in one of the public responsibilities of that status.