Jurors who’ve experienced mental and emotional strain following difficult cases will be entitled to free counselling sessions as part of plans announced by the Ministry of Justice.

The pilot scheme will launch this summer and comes after a campaign led by Manchester Metropolitan University, which we were pleased to support.

It will provide specialist expert support for jurors offering six free counselling sessions - alongside a 24/7 telephone helpline for round-the-clock triage support, advice and information.

It’s been announced during the UK’s first ever Jury Duty Appreciation Week.

About 350,000 people are called up for jury duty each year in England and Wales. Manchester Metropolitan University research shows a fourfold increase in signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among jurors following short term exposure to murder case materials. Some 50% of jurors experience signs of post-trial trauma such as nightmares, intrusive memories, and sleep disturbances.

In England and Wales jurors are not offered any specialist wellbeing support either before, during or after trials - with official approaches to juror mental health support consisting solely of signposting to the Samaritans and their GP.

The programme will be piloted in 15 courts and will include six free sessions for jurors who hear disturbing evidence, including murder, abuse and cruelty. Crown Courts in London, Liverpool, Mold, Birmingham, Bristol and Teesside are among the regions selected for the scheme. 

It will be funded by the Ministry of Justice and will run for about 10 months, following a procurement process for services to provide the counselling support.

His Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) will then look at how best to direct resources longer term to support jurors.   

Important step

Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard, our Director of Professional Standards, Policy and Research, said:

“This pilot is an important step in the right direction to ensuring jurors who perform a valuable civic duty are supported with the mental health impact of this role.

“It’s vital that jurors can access appropriate mental health support, without fear of prosecution, to help them process and best manage their experience.

“We hope this pilot scheme is the start of a longer-term investment to ensure our members can hold a crucial role in supporting jurors with their mental health across the country.”

The campaign was led by Manchester Metropolitan University and supported by us, the British Psychological Society, Canadian Juries Commission, the University of Leicester and wellbeing provider CiC.

Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University, Dr Hannah Fawcett said: 

“This pilot project is a positive first step in recognising some of the potential psychological challenges of participating in jury duty and supporting those who have been affected by distressing cases. 

“I welcome the introduction of specialist wellbeing support for jurors, who play such an important role in creating a safe and fair society for us all.”