Guilty of being deaf. Kruse v S — paying lip service to the fair-trial rights of hearing-impaired accused persons

Authors: Ferdinand Heinrich Hermann Kehrhahn & Jani Charlese de Lange

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Lecturer, Independent Institute of Education, Varsity College, Pretoria; Lecturer, Department of South African Sign Languages and Deaf Studies, University of the Free State
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 139 Issue 1, p. 157-180


This article considers the case of Kruse v S, where the right to a fair trial of a deaf accused was infringed owing to the poor communication and translation of the trial proceedings. This article considers the methods available to translate court proceedings to a deaf or hard-of-hearing accused, and demonstrates an appreciation that the deaf community is not homogeneous and that a single interpreting method cannot accommodate every deaf person. In raising the question as to which method is best suited to a specific accused, the article indicates that the culture and history of the deaf accused should be indispensable factors to consider. The article explores the rights of deaf accused in the South African criminal justice system by considering the Constitution, national legislation, and judicial norms and standards which relate to the interpreting of trial proceedings to the deaf accused. The existing laws and safeguards that protect these rights are poorly implemented at a grass-roots level, which calls for better training of stakeholders and more effective policy implementation. A concerted effort on the part of the government is required to ensure that the rights of the deaf accused are protected.