Counselling sessions are to be offered to jurors who suffer mental and emotional strain in major trials.

A pilot in 15 courts across England and Wales - including in Oxford - will run from this summer, to help people who do jury duty in distressing cases such as that of child serial killer Lucy Letby.

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Currently, jurors who feel affected by what they have seen and heard are signposted to a GP or the Samaritans, but the Ministry of Justice said this limited support can leave some feeling isolated.

As part of the pilot, people will be offered six free counselling sessions as well as access to a 24/7 telephone helpline for support, advice and information.

The enhanced support was welcomed by Dr Hannah Fawcett, a senior lecturer in forensic psychology at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Dr Fawcett described it as “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”.

Justice minister Mike Freer said juries were the "cornerstone of the criminal justice system". 

"Sitting on a trial is rightly regarded as the ultimate responsibility of an honest, law-abiding citizen," he said. 

“This pilot is an important step in assessing how we can best support jurors, who perform such a vital civic duty, often in complex, high-profile cases.”

The pilot, funded by the Ministry of Justice, will run for 10 months in crown courts across Leeds, Teesside, Liverpool, Carlisle, Mold, Oxford, Luton, Winchester, Bristol, Gloucester, Nottingham and Birmingham, as well as the Old Bailey, Snaresbrook and Kingston Upon Thames crown courts in London.