BRITISH Columbians, who have served as jurors and experienced stress and mental-health challenges arising from their work as jurors, will have access to free counselling sessions at the conclusion of a trial, thanks to a new juror support program.
Jurors are sometimes required to hear evidence and testimony about violent and traumatic crimes, including crimes against children and other vulnerable people. Previously, only one group debriefing session was available to jurors at the conclusion of trial, and only if requested by at least six jurors. The new juror support program will offer all B.C. jurors the opportunity to access four confidential one-on-one sessions with a qualified and experienced counsellor.
“This program was inspired by a letter written to me by Mark Farrant, a former juror in Ontario who is campaigning for better jury supports. He pointed out to me that British Columbia could do much more to support jurors, and he was right,” said David Eby, Attorney General, on Wednesday. “Jury duty is a vital public service, but it can also be stressful, and occasionally traumatic. Talking to a qualified counsellor can help. This new program will offer free services to all jurors, so that they can get the support they need, when they need it.”
The government will be issuing a request for proposal and, once a qualified vendor is selected, will announce program details, including when the program will be available. Counselling will be provided primarily in person, although there will be options for telephone and video sessions. A toll-free telephone number will be available to answer juror-support program questions, and to book appointments with counsellors.
“Serving as a juror is one of the most important civic duties in Canada,” Farrant said. “Canadians deliver justice in some very difficult cases, and sometimes those experiences take a toll on jurors long after the verdict is delivered. I’m very grateful that Attorney General Eby respected my mission to provide improved supports to jurors, and showed leadership in announcing these new services to British Columbians. May this serve as a signal to other provinces and territories to evolve their own policies.”
The juror support program is part of the Province’s commitment to increasing mental-health services in British Columbia, and will be available to any juror who has served on a criminal, civil, or coroner’s jury for up to six months after the conclusion of the trial.
To ensure the program is responsive to the needs of all jurors, instances of jurors needing support beyond the six-month timeline will be considered on a case-by-case basis.