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‘An important obligation of citizenship’: language, citizenship and jury service

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This paper considers whether there should be the power to summon bilingual juries in criminal trials in Ireland and Wales. It will examine the relationship between jury service as an obligation and privilege of citizenship, and the eligibility for jury service of Irish and Welsh speakers as a linguistic group. It will also demonstrate the relationship between the citizenship argument in its collective context and the rights and interests of individual speakers of these languages within the criminal jury trial process. In doing so, it seeks to emphasise that this is a multidimensional issue which requires an evaluation from a combination of perspectives, both collective and individual. It is this combination of perspectives, taken conjunctively, that supports the case for bilingual juries. Moreover, this particular debate has a particular relevance to the wider debate on European citizenship and how Europe views the concept of multilingual citizenship within its constitutional framework. Indeed, it raises fundamental questions about how Europe manages its diverse cultural and linguistic heritage and how speakers of minority languages are integrated on a basis of equality and respect towards their cultural and linguistic autonomy. The paper also addresses the objections to bilingual juries and will explore how the advent of bilingual juries could continue to preserve the random selection principle (the primary objection to bilingual juries) sufficiently to bring about fair, impartial and competent tribunals.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Senior Lecturer in Law, Swansea University

Publication date: 01 June 2007

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