District Court jury trials review rejected

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 November, 2009, 12:00am

Calls to review the possibility of having jury trials in the District Court have been rejected by the government, which says it would involve too many resources.

In response to a written question by legal-sector lawmaker Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, the government said yesterday: 'The administration is not convinced that a re-examination of this issue is warranted.'

It said the resource implications, as well as the demands on jurors, were considerable, noting that jury trials required the provision of suitable accommodation, extra administrative staff and allowances for jurors. Last year, there were 588 trials in the District Court, and this year there had been 612 up to last month.

'If all those trials had been before a judge and jury, the additional ... members of the public needed to serve as jurors, as well as other resources in managing a jury system in the District Court, would have been considerable,' the government said.

Criminal-law lawyers have been calling for a review of the justice system in Hong Kong, saying there is a widespread perception within the community that a person is almost certain to be convicted of an offence if it is tried in court. Defendants in the District Court can still be convicted by a single judge and sentenced to up to seven years.

Yesterday, Ng expressed dismay that the government had closed the door on the issue without even debating or reviewing it.

'What is despicable is that the government has responded from the position that it has no obligation to consider it ... that is not the attitude of a government committed to safeguarding and improving the administration of justice,' Ng said.