Trial by jury is a legal proceeding in which the guilt or innocence of the defendant is determined by a jury. It is opposed to bench trial that all final judgments are made by a judge. In Hong Kong, as it is under the common law system, jury trials are used in serious criminal cases and also some civil cases, like murder, manslaughter, rape, civil fraud and defamation cases etc. In addition, the jury is formed by a group of eligible citizens which is selected by local population.
The criteria for service as a jurors are 1) she/he is a resident of Hong Kong, 2) is between 21-65 years old, 3) is of good character and sound mind and 4) has a sufficient knowledge of both the language of English and Chinese. All these qualifications listed are ensure the juries have their ability to make the most appropriate verdict maturely and reasonably. To further assure the fairness, a jury usually comprises seven people and the verdict has to be reached by a majority of not less than five jurors (Jury Ordinance s. 24).
Apart from Hong Kong, jury trail is also used in many countries, like United Kingdom, United States, Russia, Canada and France etc. It means the maintenance of jury trial has its saving grace even in Hong Kong. However, there are still some criticisms to challenge the reliability and usefulness of the jury trial system. Therefore, I will try to evaluate the strengths and weakness of maintenance of jury trial in Hong Kong in the following passage. In the first part, I will analyze the advantages of using jury trial in Hong Kong.
To begin with, trial by jury can erase the individual prejudices as the members of jury are from different backgrounds. There are a provisional list of jurors is held by The Registrar of the High Court, which consists of those people qualified in Hong Kong. *(1. 28) Then, the court will further select from the list by ballot or by any other random selection methods to form the jury when the count need to summon a jury. *(1. 29). Based on those random selection, every kind of people can also have chance to be selected.
The Jury may compose of people come from different social classes, occupations and races. It ensures that jury will not just come from the same background and have partiality for the cases or defendants. As the jury is from all walk of lives, they will have different opinions on the same case and have a thorough consideration of all aspects of the case through discussion which can eliminate the individual bias effectively, making the verdict more comprehensive.
However, when there is just one judge to make the final decision, he may swayed by prejudice. Since there is no any other there to remind him or discuss with him, so he will have no doubt about his own views on the case. It is neither fairness nor openness. Especially in the considerably serious criminal case, it has a need to have various opinions on the cases to help to give out the correct judgment. In the contrast, one judge’s decision is not comprehensive enough as one people cannot think of every angle.
It may lower the credibility of the verdict. A judicial elite called Geoffrey Rivlin* also believe that the system of jury trial is impartial and equitable which can create the public confidence toward our legal system. Hence, the application of jury trial makes the Hong Kong legal system more faultless. Secondly, jury trial enables citizens to involve in the legal stuff to represent the common public. As mentioned before, the jury is formed by all walk of lives, their views on the case can represent the views of the public well.
It makes the verdict can gain more public respect which means it can be easily comprehended and accepted by them. The jury’s views are more in line with the generally accepted value of society. However, if there is a judge to give out the verdict, they may only concern with the evidence which they have seen rather than considering the ineffable difficulties of the defendants. It is because judge need to strictly follow what the law state and execute it.a.