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.
What are jurors and what is their duty?
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 part.
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.
How many jurors make up a jury?
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
Eligibility of jurors
Serving as a juror is an obligation of every resident 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 may be).
How are jurors selected?
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.
Exemption from jury service
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.
Non-attendance 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.
What happens on the day I appear in the High Court?
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.
What happens when I attend the Coroner's Court?
You should arrive at the Coroner's Court at 9/F, Tower A, West Kowloon Law Courts Building, 501 Tung Chau Street,
Sham Shui Po, Kowloon, 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.
How is the jury for each different trial selected in the High Court?
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.
Duties 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.
Are 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.
Arrangements 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.hk.