Clergy, editors, bankrupts could be asked onto juries

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 June, 2010, 12:00am

Students, newspaper editors, clergy and undischarged bankrupts would become liable for jury service under proposals by the Law Reform Commission.

The commission has also suggested increasing the maximum age for jury service from 65 to 70, but says the lower limit should stay at 21 despite calls that it be reduced to 18.

And it says people without at least a university entry-level qualification should not serve.

These are among eight key changes recommended by the commission after a seven-year review by a 10-member subcommittee, led by Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing, and a consultation in 2008 that drew 68 written responses.

Also widening the pool would be the removal of exemption from occupations that now enjoy it, including the master and crew of ships, registered pharmacists, editors of daily newspapers, Justices of the Peace and spouses of certain members of the judiciary.

People in these categories could apply to the Registrar of the High Court or the trial judge to be excused or to have their jury service deferred.

Medical practitioners and nurses, law enforcers, members of the Executive Council and Legislative Council and others would remain on the exemption list.

The subcommittee also sets out to provide a clearer definition of the 'good character' requirement and says there is no reason to continue to exclude discharged bankrupts under this heading.

It suggests that in order to meet the 'good character' requirement, the juror should not have been sentenced to imprisonment, suspended or not, for more than three months for an offence for which a fine is not an option. A person should also not have been jailed for three months or less within five years of the summons.

To ensure that jurors have a reasonable connection with Hong Kong and have some understanding of local norms, values and culture, the report proposes that they should have held Hong Kong identity cards for at least three years and be living in Hong Kong at the time.

It also proposes that the education requirement of jurors should be stipulated in legislation. A juror must attain the minimum entrance requirement for entry to a university in Hong Kong, meaning Form Seven under the present education system and Secondary Six when the new secondary education structure comes into force in 2012.

All criminal trials in the Court of First Instance must be held with juries, which are also used for some inquests.

There were 678,000 people on the jury list on September 1 last year.