Ontario's attorney general, Yasir Naqvi, vows action on jurors with PTSD
Prompted by CBC Toronto stories, Yasir Naqvi aims to improve support for those traumatized by jury duty
Ontario's Attorney General Yasir Naqvi is looking to improve support for jurors traumatized by grisly evidence in trials, after CBC Toronto told the story of a jury member paying for his own counselling to cope with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Currently, the province only covers the costs of psychological counselling for jurors if it is ordered by a judge during a trial.
"I'm hearing concerns that that may not be appropriate, that we may need a better system," Naqvi told CBC News at Queen's Park on Tuesday.
- Ex-juror diagnosed with PTSD wants psychiatric help available after trials
"My intent is to raise this issue with the judiciary and with our other justice partners so that we can collectively determine what is a better approach," Naqvi said.
He would not say what the form the changes could take, nor did he commit to a deadline. But he said it's important to provide counselling services in difficult cases.
"I want to engage in those conversations with the judiciary and our other justice system partners to determine what could be a better way of providing those services to jurors and based on that, determine the tools," Naqvi said.
The attorney general made the commitment in the wake of CBC News reports revealing that people required to perform jury duty are too often left to fend for themselves as they process the often disturbing and graphic evidence of a trial.
Mark Farrant was the jury foreman in the first-degree murder trial of a man who slit his girlfriend's throat and stabbed her repeatedly before setting their Toronto rooming house on fire.
"The immediate, graphic horror really of the crime itself ... I don't think I was prepared for that," Farrant said in an interview with CBC News
Farrant said he has been paying to see a therapist for a year since being diagnosed with PTSD, even though the anxiety he suffers stems from the mandatory civic service of jury duty.
"We have to ensure those people who have been selected to perform that service are looked after," he said.
Naqvi told CBC News that he has heard from jurors who've been forced to confront shocking, violent evidence during trials.
"Personal stories are always very compelling," said Naqvi. "We need to recognize and acknowledge the fact that jurors do perform a very important duty and we've heard from stories that it could have a traumatic impact."
Former Ontario Chief Justice Patrick LeSage — who presided over the Paul Bernardo murder trial — is among those urging the province to provide jurors with better access to counselling.