Britain to allow those who know Indian languages to be jury
London: The inability to understand read or write English language would no longer be a hindrance to serve as a British jury member deciding immigration cases. People who only know Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu or Gujarati are equally welcome.
The Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service has confirmed that jurors who cannot read English are now being invited to decide the outcome of immigration trials.
Around 200,000 people are summoned every year for jury duty.
Now, they would be called with letters printed in seven languages as well as English to "encourage" non-English speakers, the Daily Mail reported.
The languages are Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Gujarati, Polish, Cantonese, and Arabic. In Wales, jurors are also sent information in Welsh.
Even those who cannot understand spoken English "could be asked" to sit in trials of those accused of crime, it said.
The tribunal, part of the ministry of justice, said the language addendum "is aimed at people who cannot read English very well but can speak English so would be able to serve on a jury".
Criminologists and MPs, however, said they were worried about inclusion of those with poor English in juries.
Douglas Carswell, Tory MP, said: "The jury system is founded on the idea that we are all tried by our peers. If your peers cannot speak English, or read or write it properly, how can you have confidence you will get justice?"
David Green, of the Civitas think-tank, said: "If you can't even read the letter summoning you for jury service, you are not fit to be a juror."
The tribunal said multi-language summonses were introduced to allow those who do not read English avoid the risk of being prosecuted for failing to reply. Ignoring a summons can bring on a 1,000 pound fine.
A spokesman said: "The language addendum was introduced in 2009 to ensure no juror is disadvantaged by information being provided only in English and Welsh."
"The concern was that members of the public were being summoned for jury service where potentially they may not understand what was being asked of them and that they needed to complete the summons."