One of the most important features of Hong Kong's
legal system is trial by jury, i.e. trial in court by
fellow members of the community of the person on trial.
Jurors are Hong Kong residents who have been sworn
to hear and pass verdict on an accused person in a criminal
case (and in some civil actions). Deliberating together
and with no other persons present, they decide on the
facts in a case on the basis of the evidence brought
forward in court.
Jurors are not legal experts and so they are given
clear directions on points of law by the trial judge.
The personal responsibility of each juror is to ensure
that justice is done. This responsibility extends not
merely to the person on trial but also to the whole
community of which they and the person on trial form
In a criminal case, the foreman of the jury informs the
trial judge in open court, before all other members of the
jury and in the presence of the accused, whether the jury
has found the accused guilty or not guilty.
In a death inquest, the jury decides the cause of and
the circumstances connected with a death.
The most serious criminal offences (such as murder,
manslaughter, rape, armed robbery, certain drug offences
and commercial fraud offences) are tried by a judge
of the Court of First Instance, sitting with a jury
of seven people or, where a judge so orders, nine.
In some civil cases, such as actions for defamation
or malicious prosecution, a party may elect to have
the issues of fact tried by a jury.
A jury is empanelled in some death inquests held by
the Coroner's Court. In a coroner's inquest, a jury
of five is appointed.
Serving as a juror is an obligation of every citizen
of Hong Kong who is qualified to serve.
Serving as a juror can sometimes cause inconvenience.
However, in a society such as Hong Kong where the rule
of law is upheld and it enjoys a transparent legal system,
the role and importance of the jury system make jury
service a privilege.
A resident of Hong Kong is eligible to serve as a juror
if he/she -
- has reached the age of 21 but is 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, and
- has sufficient knowledge of the language of the
court proceedings (Chinese or English as the case
The Commissioner of Registration will include your
name in the list of jurors if you are considered eligible.
The Registrar, High Court, will serve a notice on you,
notifying that your name is about to be added to the
list of jurors.
The Registrar, High Court, compiles a provisional list
of jurors in or before October in each alternate year.
This list is confirmed during or before the following
February. The Registrar may compile additional lists
from time to time. A notice is then published in the
Government Gazette and in newspapers, stating that copies
of the provisional list or the additional list of jurors
are available for inspection.
The Registrar, High Court, each week draws at random
a number of jurors from the list. If you are selected,
a summons will be sent to you by registered post requesting
your presence in the High Court or the Coroner's Court
on a certain date. You are usually given at least 21
days' notice of a call for jury service.
A juror who has attended in response to a jury summons
will not normally be summoned again within 2 years.
If you are summoned for jury service, you should check
whether you meet all the eligibility requirements as
a juror and whether you belong to the categories of
persons who are exempted from jury service under section
4 or 5 of the Jury
If you wish to seek exemption from jury service, you
should write to the Registrar, High Court, setting out
the reasons in full as soon as possible after:
- you receive a notice from the Registrar that your
name will be added to the list of jurors;
- copies of the provisional list or the additional
list of jurors are available for inspection; or
- you receive the summons to appear as a juror.
The Registrar will consider your application for exemption,
and may either agree to or turn down your request. Exemptions
are not lightly granted. Business commitments are not
normally considered to be a sufficient reason for exemption
from jury service.
If the Registrar refuses your application, you may
still put the request to the trial judge if you are
selected by ballot as a juror.
You should arrive at the High Court Building according
to the time specified in the summons and go to the Jurors
Assembly Room on the first floor.
The Judiciary staff will meet you at the Jurors Assembly
Room and check your identity. You will be shown a video
that clearly explains the selection procedure and what
a juror in a criminal trial has to do.
You should arrive at the Coroner's Court at 10/F Eastern
Law Courts Building, 29 Tai On Street, Sai Wan Ho, Hong
Kong or such place to be used as the Coroner's Court
according to the time and place specified in the summons.
The Judiciary staff will check your identity, explain
the selection procedure and tell you what a juror in
a coroner's inquest has to do.
is the jury for each different trial selected in the
The jury for each High Court trial is selected by ballot
in open court from among those who have been summoned.
Usually more jurors are summoned than are needed. This
allows for those granted exemption. In criminal trials,
this also allows for objections from the lawyers for
the defence and the prosecution.
Members of the panel not selected on the first occasion
in the court may be required to attend another court
for the selection of another jury on that day or on
a later date.
of a juror
In a criminal trial, jurors decide, based on the facts,
whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. In a
death inquest, jurors decide the cause of and the circumstances
connected with a death.
Although the trial judge decides which evidence the
jury may hear, it is for the jury to decide the weight
to attach to such evidence when considering their verdict.
The jury's deliberations are confidential. Members
of the jury should take great care never to discuss
the case with anyone other than their fellow members.
How long will the trial
or inquest last?
Criminal trials usually take one to three weeks and
death inquests up to a few days. The trial judge or
the coroner will inform members of the jury of the anticipated
length of the case.
and Discrimination against a juror
According to section 32 of the Jury Ordinance, failure
to attend in response to a summons to juror is an offence.
Section 33 of the Jury Ordinance provides that an employer
who terminates, threatens to terminate, the employment
of, or in any way discriminates against, any person
employed by him, for reasons in connection with jury
service commits an offence and is liable upon conviction
to a fine of $25,000 and to imprisonment for 3 months.
jurors paid for their work?
Once selected to serve as a member of the jury in a
case, the juror will receive an allowance in accordance
with section 31(1) of the Jury Ordinance for each day
during the whole or part of which the juror serves.
Suggestions and enquiries
Wherever possible, Judiciary staff will reply at once
to correspondence from members of the public. In any
case, we will give you an interim reply within 10 days
and a full response within 30 days of receiving a letter.
We welcome all comments and suggestions for improving
our services. Please send them to the Judiciary Administrator
at the High Court, 38 Queensway, Hong Kong. For general
enquiries, please call the Jury Clerk on 2825 4668 or
write to the Jury Clerk at the same address.
during inclement weather
The Courts are adjourned when tropical cyclone signal
No.8 or above, or a black rainstorm warning signal is
issued. Since an adjournment may affect your attendance
as a juror. You should therefore listen to announcements
on the radio and television regarding adjournments and
arrangements for re-opening of the Courts. For enquiries,
please call the hotline at 2523 2212 or visit the Judiciary
website at http://www.judiciary.gov.hk.