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Donald Tsang

Hong Kong judge gives jurors in Donald Tsang trial a Valentine’s Day gift

Mr Justice Chan will complete his summing up of the case on Wednesday, which means jurors will be able to go home on Tuesday night

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 February, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 February, 2017, 10:12am

The jurors in Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s corruption trial might have the former chief executive’s future in their hands, but that won’t stop them celebrating Valentine’s Day, a judge has ruled.

The judge in Tsang’s trial, Mr Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai, also reminded jurors to bring their underwear next week when they are expected to deliberate on the former chief executive’s guilt.

Tsang, 72, has been charged with two counts of misconduct in public office and one of a chief executive accepting an advantage between 2010 and 2012.

With the end of the trial looming, the jurors will soon be sent out to reach a verdict. Chan originally proposed they could be sent out next Tuesday – Valentine’s Day. If jurors cannot reach a verdict in one day, they must stay overnight in High Court accommodation.

Not wanting to miss out on the romantic occasion, the nine-member jury told the judge they had made special arrangements for the date. Chan then said he would finish his closing statement on Wednesday so they would not have to spend Valentine’s Day in the High Court.

After the defence finished its closing submission on Friday, Chan told the jury that underwear and toiletries would be provided by the court – although he reminded them to bring their own.

“Your own will be a lot more comfortable,” he said, comparing their own belongings to judiciary-issued undergarments.

Experienced Hong Kong criminal defence lawyer Jonathan Midgley said he hadn’t heard of a judge accommodating Valentine’s Day requests before.

“But I think it’s very charming,” he told the South China Morning Post.

“In my view this is a modern, sensitive and compassionate decision from a judge.”

Jurors played an integral part in the legal process, so judges tended to try their best to accommodate reasonable requests to ensure as little disruption to their lives as possible, Midgley said.

He said the length of the trial – which has already forced the jurors to give up a lot of their time over the past month – probably also influenced the judge’s decision.

When they hear evidence, jurors go home each night, but they aren’t allowed to discuss the case with friends and family.

In Hong Kong, verdicts can be unanimous, meaning all jurors agree, or majority, meaning all but one or two jurors agree. If the jury has tried to reach a verdict but cannot agree, the judge can discharge the jurors and empanel a new jury.