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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wear a mask to protect others, says Vanderhoof’s top doctor

“I think wearing a mask is a small inconvenience when weighed against the possibility of giving vulnerable members of our community an infection that could kill them,” the doctor said.

Here is what school will look like for FLESS students

Students are going back to school on June 1 on a voluntary, part-time basis.

7 projects in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake and Burns Lake receive NKDF funding

Nechako-Kitamaat Development Fund Society announced $139,702 in funding on May 29.

School buses for SD91 to start running from June 1

Parents urged to drop off and pick kids up whenever possible.

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

$200,000 Maybach impounded after ‘L’ driver caught excessively speeding in Vancouver

Meanwhile, the supervisor sat in the passenger seat, police said

COVID-19 cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a B.C. mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Yukon ready to lift COVID travel restrictions with B.C. in July: premier

Premier Sandy Silver says the territory’s health-care system can cope with the virus.

Most Read