B.C. Supreme Court justice denies request to ask jurors their vaccination status

A B.C. Supreme Court justice recently decided against asking jurors their COVID-19 vaccination status, despite a request from Crown counsel.

The Crown in a criminal trial in Powell River asked Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey Gomery to ask jurors to reveal their vaccination status and to dismiss any juror who would not confirm they were fully vaccinated.

It was a suggestion the defence did not favour. Nor did Gomery.

In his oral reasons for ruling concerning jury selection, Gomery noted that the question “trenches on a private and personal sphere.”

“Panellists might well have reasons to wish not to discuss their vaccination status in public in the intimidating environment of a courtroom,” he said. “Some might be intimidated by the question itself.”

As well, Gomery found no reason why a person who is unvaccinated or who chooses not to disclose their vaccination status might not be fit to serve on a jury.

“I do not think the participation of unvaccinated jurors risks public confidence in the administration of justice,” he said.

Gomery pointed out that jury trials have taken place throughout the COVID-19 pandemic without any outbreaks. He said protective measures such as social distancing, plexiglass barriers, masking and other health protocols have kept jurors and other participants in court cases safe.

However, Gomery said that if a juror was concerned about their safety and potentially contracting the virus, he would excuse them.

Ultimately, Gomery found there was no valid reason to ask the question in the first place.

Right now, only criminal trials are operating with juries. The province suspended civil jury trials in B.C. Supreme Court because of the pandemic. They are set to return on Oct. 8, 2022.

Criminal jury trials were also temporarily suspended, but returned in September 2020.

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