The Directive 2010/64/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 establishes common minimum rules for European Union (EU) countries on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings as well as in proceedings for the execution of the European arrest warrant. It contributes to the proper functioning of judicial cooperation within the EU by facilitating the mutual recognition of judicial decisions in criminal matters. The directive also aims to improve the protection of individual rights by developing the minimum standards for the right to a fair trial and the right of defense guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

When the law is applied, we use models of social policy, knowledge of majority cultural behaviour and morality, assumptions about the use of a shared common language and the application of legal precedents. None of these assumptions work well when Deaf people are included in legal settings. Consequently, the claim that justice will provide for the protection of an individual’s rights, is brought into question when it is assumed that Deaf people access the legal system in the same way and experience the same outcomes as their hearing (i.e. non-Deaf) peers.

JUSTISIGNS recognises specific reasons for this problem:

  1. 1.The lack of, or limited status, afforded to sign languages which inhibits access to information at all stages of the legal process for Deaf people;

  1. 2.Limited understanding in legal settings of the constraints imposed by the interpreting process when working between any two languages, with additional challenges arising when working between a spoken (auditory-verbal) and signed (visual-spatial) language;

  1. 3.A lack of awareness (among legal professionals) of the historical educational and cultural background of Deaf people which gives rise to challenges in legal settings.

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