It has come to our attention that there has been a lot of discussion regarding jury trial in Hong Kong, and a mad dash to get ‘registered’. Is this really necessary? What happens if you change your address? We thought it would be helpful to set out a few facts:
What is Trial by Jury?
One of the features of the Hong Kong legal system is trial by jury: i.e. trial in court by fellow members of the community of the person on trial (e.g. most criminal trials in the Court of First Instance).
Jurors are Hong Kong residents who have been sworn to hear and pass verdict on a defendant in a criminal case (and in some civil actions). The jurors discuss with each other with no other person present, and they decide on the facts in a case on the basis of the evidence brought to court. Jurors are not legal experts, and so they are given clear directions on points of law by the trial judge. Each juror’s responsibility is to ensure that justice is done, and this responsibility extends not merely to the person on trial, but also to the whole community.
Jurors may also be required in some death inquests.
Who are eligible to be jurors and is this a mandatory requirement? Any exemptions?
Serving as a juror is an obligation for every resident of Hong Kong who is qualified to serve. The requirements are:
– At least age of 21 but not yet 65
– Is of a sound mind and has no disabilities such as hearing or visual impairments that might prevent him / her from serving as a juror
– Is of good character
– Has sufficient knowledge of the language of the court proceedings (Chinese or English as the case may be)
Unlike what may be seen on US television shows, in Hong Kong, there is no process to vet jurors, including their political views.
There are some exemptions from jury service set out in Section 5 of the Jury Ordinance (Cap 3). Please see this link: https://www.elegislation.gov.hk/hk/cap3!en-zh-Hant-HK…
How is the list of jurors compiled?
The Commissioner of Registration will include a Hong Kong resident’s name in the list of jurors if he/she is considered eligible. The Registrar, High Court, will serve a notice on that person to notify that his/her name is about to be added to the list of jurors. The list of jurors that is compiled by the Registrar, High Court, is published in the Government Gazette and in newspapers.
The Registrar of the High Court draws each week at random a number of jurors from the list. If a person is selected, a summons will be sent to that person by registered post requesting their presence at the relevant court on a certain date. There is usually at least 21 days’ notice of a call for jury service. Usually more jurors are summoned than are needed. In criminal trials, this allows for objections from the lawyers for the defence and the prosecution. Normally, a juror who has attended in response to a jury summons will not be summoned again within 2 years.
Does a person need to ‘register’ to be a juror?
Because it is the Commissioner of Registration which includes a Hong Kong resident’s name in the list of jurors if that person is considered eligible, all eligible residents would automatically be included in the list, and there is no need to register separately.
If a resident has moved, or emigrated, then this is just a matter of notifying the government of a change in address. This can be easily done online here, and you will see that it covers also the Immigration Department: