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

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

Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Conservative MP Marc Dalton and former MP and Liberal candidate Dan Ruimy.
Dalton slams budget, Ruimy defends Liberal spending

Neither politician sees federal budget triggering an election

Eric Antell (centre) receives a commendation from Ridge Meadows RCMP Acting Officer in Charge Wendy Mehat (left). (Ridge Meadows RCMP photo/ Facebook)
VIDEO: Maple Ridge man gets commendation for assisting Mountie under attack

Eric Antell tackled a suspect who was assaulting a police officer on Christmas Day 2019

Caitlin Toews, operations director of The Asante Centre, says more supports are needed for people with FASD. (Special to The News)
More supports ‘urgently’ needed for those living with FASD

Wait-lists for supports at Maple Ridge centre can mean the difference between life and death

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Surrey RCMP reunited three stolen puppies with their mom. (RCMP handout)
Puppies stolen from South Surrey home located, reunited with mom

Surrey RCMP said they found the stolen puppies on April 16

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A woman is vaccinated at a Maple Ridge clinic. (Black Press files)
Fraser Health providing priority AZ immunization for people 40+ in COVID hotpots

Six Surrey neighbourhoods, North Delta, PoCo, South Langley Township, and West Abbotsford targeted

The city asking the public if they want to pursue legal action against the province and their decision to override the city on the Victory Church issue. (Jesse Day Western News)
Penticton to sue province over homeless shelter

City council voted unanimously to go forward with legal action

Most Read