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  1. ITV Report

'Once you've seen you can't unsee:' Support for jurors sitting on traumatic cases criticised

Jurors in England may not be given adequate support when serving on distressing cases.

A juror who served on a high profile murder trial has criticised the level of support provided to people called up for jury duty.

Rebecca was one of the jurors on the Becky Watts murder trial in 2015, a seven-week case that was so harrowing she said it had a disturbing effect on her.

She told ITV News she was "emotionally isolated" and given no support by the government to help cope with the experience.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) told ITV News that jurors hearing the most harrowing evidence are not getting the right support - something which could affect their judgement.

Unlike in Scotland, jurors in England and Wales get no formal support from the courts for any trauma they suffer.

Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) said there is "a well-established support system in place" for jurors but that "more can be done" to improve their experience.

Rebecca said that she received no support from the court. Credit: ITV News

Rebecca told ITV News: "I think that during the whole court process, I didn't eat, I didn't sleep," said the mum-of-three. "So I think I lost about three quarters of a stone during the seven weeks.

"I felt very emotionally isolated so I felt that I had nowhere to turn, I had no way in which I would process all that information that I was seeing.

"I had no way to debrief. And once you've seen you can't unsee."

Recognising that she had been left traumatised by absorbing graphic information about the murder, she paid for professional help herself.

She said that she received no support from the court aside from a suggestion she calls the Samaritans.

"I don't think there was a duty of care provided - a duty of care to me suggests that your emotional and mental well-being is being looked after during the course of that trial and afterwards," she said.

Doctor Noelle Robertson, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the University of Leicester. Credit: ITV News

Judges warn of legal action if jurors talk about their role and research into the civic duty is limited, but what has been done suggests the experience can be a distressing ordeal.

Dr Noelle Robertson, Consultant Clinical Psychologist at the University of Leicester, carried out research into the effects of being a juror.

She said: "What we found was that those jurors who were exposed to harrowing evidence, graphic images, high-heightened emotions in the court room, for a small proportion of those they experienced trauma-like symptoms"

Kate Nowlan said that simple steps to support jurors are not being taken. Credit: ITV News

Kate Nowlan, who runs a company supporting people including police and NHS staff to work through distressing cases, said that courts do not do enough to support jurors.

"There are such simple things one can do like resilience and well-being training," she said. "The follow up particularly after very difficult cases is absolutely crucial."

The CBA said it is, alongside the Bar Council (BC) actively providing services and information to help members cope with distressing cases.

The Criminal Bar Association said assistance for jurors is inadequate. Credit: ITV News

A spokesperson for the CBA said: "Assistance available for the judiciary and court staff is often inadequate. No specialist help is provided by the criminal justice system for jurors.

"Court staff are not given training to recognise signs of trauma in jurors, and there is a risk that jurors who are being deeply affected by their task may fall through the net."

A spokesperson for HMCTS said a range of support services are available including counselling from GPs and advice from the Samaritans.

"Jurors carry out a vital public service and their commitment, even in distressing cases, allows justice to be delivered and the public to be protected and we are extremely grateful for that," the spokesperson said.

"We recognise more can be done to improve the experience of jurors and we have recently conducted research looking at how support for jurors can be improved."