Tories, NDP, push bill that would improve mental-health support for jurors

The Alberta MP said the jury-secrecy rule prevents jurors from seeking help

Federal opposition parties have joined forces to support a private member’s bill aimed at improving mental-health support for jurors traumatized by the evidence they see during trials.

Conservative deputy justice critic Michael Cooper says people who sit through gruesome trials and who suffer stress, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder should be able to seek help from mental-health professionals.

The Alberta MP said the jury-secrecy rule prohibits jurors from talking about jury deliberations forever, preventing them from seeking help.

“Frankly it’s simply unacceptable that jurors who are doing nothing more than their civic duty are not able to get the full mental-health support they require to help cope with their mental health issues arising from their civic duty, and that needs to change,” Cooper said.

RELATED: B.C. jury trial hears police-sting audio of man accused of killing girl, 12

Mark Farrant, who became an advocate for jurors after he developed post-traumatic stress disorder during a long murder trial, said he experienced the challenge of getting health care firsthand.

“It’s one thing to see evidence in movies and in fiction and read about it, but when it’s real it’s a completely different experience. You can’t turn away from it,” said Farrant. “And a juror is silent. You can’t raise your hand and say you’ve had enough, ‘I want to take a break’. You can’t talk. So you have to sit there and ingest all of this detail.”

Many jurors go through the system unscathed, he said, but not all. And he said this bill removes the impediment to jurors recieving post-trial support.

Cooper’s bill is also supported by the New Democrats and he said Liberal MPs have also said they’ll support it. Cooper is seeking support from the government.

RELATED: Jury acquits Ontario homeowner in fatal shooting of unarmed Indigenous man

Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said in August that she would consider changes to the very law Cooper wants to change with his private member’s bill.

Wilson said in a letter to fellow Liberal MP Anthony Housefather, chairman of the House of Commons justice committee, that she will find ways to better assist jurors.

The justice committee in May on recommended the government amend Section 649 of the Criminal Code, which requires jurors to keep their deliberations to themselves for life.

In her letter, Wilson-Raybould acknowledges the obstacles the section poses both for jurors and academic researchers who want to talk to people who have served on juries.

Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

BC Ferries to pilot selling beer and wine on select routes

Drinks from select B.C. breweries and VQA wineries to be sold on Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route

Four Grizzlies players named for NHL draft

Newhook slated to be pick number 13 overall

Another busy day for BC Ferry passengers

First sailings to and from Swartz Bay full or nearly full

Cathedral to hold inclusive memorial for those lost through overdoses

Christ Church Cathedral memorial to respect diverse spirituality of participants

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria receives $2.8M Anthony Thorn donation

Victoria News article inspires hefty donation for gallery expansion

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Contaminated soil to stay at contentious Shawnigan Lake site?

Reaction: “The community would lose their minds if this plan proceeds.”

4 victims killed in Penticton shooting spree remembered at vigil

John Brittain, 68, is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder

B.C. awaits Kenney’s ‘turn off taps,’ threat; Quebec rejects Alberta pipelines

B.C. Premier John Horgan said he spoke with Kenney Wednesday and the tone was cordial

Snowbirds arrive on Vancouver Island for annual spring training

VIDEO: Acrobatic air team back in Comox for annual spring training

Vancouver Island restaurant among Canada’s most sustainable eateries

Locals in Courtenay only B.C. or small city establishment to make the top six list

Federal government extends deadline to make Trans Mountain decision to June 18

The National Energy Board endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline on Feb. 22

Most Read