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Juries: Mental Health

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 114864, tabled on 21 November 2017

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, whether an individual can opt out of jury service if the case includes sensitive or traumatic details that may affect their mental health.

Answered on

1 December 2017

There is a range of guidance material available to jurors. The Juror Charter sets out the minimum standards that a juror can expect from HM Courts & Tribunals Service at each stage of their jury service, including when jurors may be experiencing distress. It is available online and in courts. A leaflet entitled ‘Supporting You Through Jury Service’, which offers further advice to jurors, is also available in courts and on-line.

If a juror has any concerns, including when the type of case is initially disclosed, they may state these to the Usher or Jury Officer. Jurors can also write a note which sets out their concerns, which will be passed to the trial judge. The judge will discuss with Counsel and decide whether to discharge the juror from the trial.

Jurors are encouraged to speak to their GP and/or the Samaritans if any aspect of their jury service has left them feeling distressed. Their GP can help them to access counselling services and the Samaritans can provide support over the telephone, email or through a local Samaritans branch.

The judiciary are responsible for engaging with the jury on the nature of the evidence in sensitive or difficult cases. The trial judge will seek to meet the interests of justice without causing undue anxiety to any juror and may therefore take an independent decision to warn the jury of likely distressing evidence. The trial judge also has the discretion, in appropriate circumstances, to dismiss any juror who may find the evidence too distressing to continue.