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

Enrolment, EA increases make for no surprises in updated school district budget

The budget reflects changes that were made after recieving provincial funds in December

Agassiz Community Gardens hoping to find new home at old McCaffrey school

The society has been looking for a new location since its previous gardens were sold in October

Kent looking to replace Ferny Coombe pool with indoor facility

The facility being built is dependent on grant funding from the province and federal government

Escape room brings ‘out of the box’ activity to Agassiz

AESS alumni and teacher developed the concept to bring teamwork-based entertainment to the town

Prices still rising, Chilliwack real estate back in balanced territory

Local market is steadier compared to points west with higher increase in average sale price

B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

A program that focuses on treatment as prevention will roll out Jan. 17

Olympian snowboarder Max Parrot diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Each year in Canada, approximately 900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Vancouver Island photographer makes National Geographic’s 2018 elite

Rare double honour for Marston from the 36 best Your Shots out of nearly 19,000 photos

Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby, B.C., says volunteer wrote controversial post

Karen Wang dropped out following online post singling out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Canada’s arrest of Huawei exec an act of ‘backstabbing,’ Chinese ambassador says

China has called Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou ‘politically motivated’

Manure company causing ‘toxic’ stink at Abbotsford school seeks permit

Property across from King Traditional Elementary cannot operate manure facility without permit

Vancouver city council endorses free transit for youth

Mayor Kennedy Stewart will write a support letter to TransLink

Most Read