Broadening pool of jurors would not lead to better court decisions

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 February, 2008, 12:00am

I don't support the idea that every effort has to be made to make juries as inclusive as possible ('Our jury system must be strengthened', January 29).

In Hong Kong's court system, the jury is only set up in the Court of First Instance in the High Court.

It tries the most serious criminal cases, which account for only 0.1 per cent of the criminal cases handled by the courts.

That means most trials are completed in lower courts without a jury.

In other words, the jury system has been a symbol of common law.

Its application is limited as most criminal cases won't get the opportunity to be tried by a jury.

So, broadening the jury pool does not really enlarge the extent of resident participation. It is only a symbolic move.

I support, however, the education and language requirements to the eligibility of jurors. Although Chinese has been introduced in trials since 1997, most trials are still conducted in English.

If there are no education and language requirements, there may be cases whereby the jurors do not fully understand the proceedings. And the right of jury service is not like voting rights, although there are some similarities.

When you vote, you express your own opinion which seldom affects other people. But when you serve in a jury, you are not only expressing your opinion but also deciding another person's fate. So, reasonable requirements on education and language of jurors are acceptable.

In fact, there have been voices which question the justice of our jury system. Some have argued that jurors may still have difficulty understanding all the counsels' addresses; that some jurors are prone to be influenced by others and evidence can often be too complicated for ordinary people to understand. What is more, the jurors' deliberations are privileged and they do not have to explain the rationale of their verdicts to anyone.

How they come to a verdict remains a puzzle.

When the justice of the jury system is questionable, it is imprudent to talk about broadening the pool of potential jurors.

Yoko Wang Miao, Tai Po