Article 13 – Access to justice - Article 13

Convention Text

1.1 States Parties shall ensure effective access to justice for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others, including through the provision of procedural and age-appropriate accommodations, in order to facilitate their effective role as direct and indirect participants, including as witnesses, in all legal proceedings, including at investigative and other preliminary stages. R1

1.2 In order to help to ensure effective access to justice for persons with disabilities, States Parties shall promote appropriate training for those working in the field of administration of justice, including police and prison staff. R2

Declaration of Needs and Characteristics

2.1 Blind and partially-sighted people are often unable to identify their assailants and are less able to defend themselves. For these reasons blind and partially-sighted people can also be more vulnerable to witness intimidation.

2.2 There have been instances where the evidence of blind and partially-sighted witnesses and victims has not been accepted because of their inability to visually identify suspects or defendants. However, there are circumstances where blind and partially-sighted victims or witnesses have heard attackers speak and would be in a position to make a positive identification of suspects and defendants by listening to their voices. It may also be possible in some circumstances, for a blind or partially-sighted victim of violence to identify their assailant by tactual identification of physical characteristics.

2.3 Prisoners who are blind and partially-sighted are at greater risk of attack, bullying and harassment.

2.4 In order to obtain full and effective access to justice, blind and partially-sighted plaintiffs, witnesses and defendants need access to evidentiary and other documentation and information relevant to their role in court in formats of their choice, and to be informed of what is happening and who is present during court proceedings.

2.5 Suitably qualified blind and partially-sighted people can function effectively as lawyers, judges and jurors when their needs for timely access to evidentiary and other information in formats of their choice and information about who is present and what is happening during legal proceedings is addressed.

2.6 Blind and partially-sighted people need their information, communication and access issues arising from their visual disability to be fully addressed in order to ensure that their rights are effectively assured by police, security or other law enforcement officers when they are involved in investigations, arrested, remanded or questioned.

Important Aspects of Convention Text

3.1 Convention text - R1 1. States Parties shall ensure effective access to justice for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others, including through the provision of procedural and age-appropriate accommodations, in order to facilitate their effective role as direct and indirect participants, including as witnesses, in all legal proceedings, including at investigative and other preliminary stages.

3.2 Requirement - Blind and partially-sighted people's means of identification by sound and touch should be legally recognised as admissible evidence in a court of law, providing the same safeguards are taken to ensure an objective identification as are taken when witnesses are called upon to identify suspects or defendants by their visual appearance.

3.3 Requirement - In instances where attackers take advantage of victims' inability to recognise them or to protect themselves because of visual loss, or where crimes are attributable to defendants' attitude towards visual disability or blind or partially-sighted people, the law must require courts to take account of these aggravated circumstances by administering harsher punishments on the perpetrators.

3.4 Requirement - Police and other authorities must take any necessary additional steps to protect the personal safety of blind and partially-sighted witnesses.

3.5 Requirement - Courts shall ensure that blind and partially-sighted witnesses, plaintiffs and defendants are enabled to fully appreciate who is participating in the legal process and who is present in court, and that full and effective access is provided to evidence, exhibits and other material or situations relevant to the case.

3.6 Requirement - Police and other security or law enforcement officers must take steps to protect the legal rights of blind and partially-sighted people who are participating in investigations, questioned or arrested by ensuring that communication, information or access issues arising from visual disabilities are effectively addressed.

3.7 Requirement - Blind and partially-sighted prisoners on remand must be provided with relevant information in accessible formats and assisted to gain access to the full range of facilities provided for prisoners. The conditions of their remand or detention should also take account of the fact that their visual disabilities can place blind and partially-sighted prisoners at additional personal risk.

3.8 Requirement - Evidentiary and other materials relevant to the execution of cases must be made available in accessible formats and in a timely manner so that:

- Blind and partially-sighted people with the required qualifications can practice as lawyers and as judges in civil and criminal courts;
- blind and partially-sighted people may be called to serve and fulfil their responsibilities as jurors.

3.9 Convention text - R2 2. In order to help to ensure effective access to justice for persons with disabilities, States Parties shall promote appropriate training for those working in the field of administration of justice, including police and prison staff.

3.10 Requirement - The training provided for police, prison, court and other personnel within the police, legal and penal services on the needs and characteristics of disabled people must include an appreciation of the special requirements of blind and partially-sighted people.