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Last Updated: Monday, 20 March 2006, 07:03 GMT
'Bilingual juries for Wales' call
Juror being sworn in (generic picture)
Any problems offering bilingual juries are soluble, it is claimed
The body representing most of Wales' judges and legal profession is calling for bilingual juries in the courts.

The Lord Chancellor's Standing Committee on the Welsh Language has made the recommendation.

It said bilingual juries were essential if equal status for both English and Welsh - set out in the Welsh Language Act - is to be given full effect.

But victim support campaigners warned it could lead to more trauma and stress for victims and witnesses.

The committee has made its recommendation as part of a consultation which is due to end this month.

It said the absence of a bilingual jury "severely undermines" the Welsh Language Act guaranteeing the right of everyone taking part in a jury trial in Wales to speak Welsh.

It is achievable in other jurisdictions - I believe it is also achievable in the criminal courts of Wales
Solicitor Hywel James

It also said jury trials in the crown court were currently out of step because in civil cases tried by a judge - and in criminal cases heard in the magistrates court or in crown court with no jury - arrangements could be made for the magistrate or judge to be bilingual.

Any practical issues could also be overcome, it added.

Solicitor Hywel James welcomed the consultation.

He said: "I think you're under a disability in Wales if you wish to give evidence through the medium of Welsh where that evidence is dependent on being translated and, in effect, the jury are receiving that second hand."

We are concerned that selecting bilingual juries could cause extra delays in the court and result in more difficulties
John Trew, Victim Support Wales

Mr James said there were practical difficulties to ensuring bilingual juries but they were not "insurmountable".

He said the centralisation of crown court cases and also the demographic change of Welsh speakers would ensure that there were sufficient numbers to form a panel of bilingual jurors.

"The census figures indicate that one-fifth of people in Wales speak Welsh.

"It is correct where the Welsh language has equal status that they also have the right to bilingual juries.

"It is achievable in other jurisdictions. I believe it is also achievable in the criminal courts of Wales."

But one organisation which took part in the consultation expressed its doubts.

John Trew, national officer in Wales for Victim Support Wales, said: "We are concerned that selecting bilingual juries could cause extra delays in the court and result in more difficulties, more delays and more trauma and stress for victims and witnesses."


SEE ALSO:
Ex-crime minister to be juror
08 Jul 04 |  Wales
Battle ahead on jury reforms
02 Dec 99 |  Politics


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