The jury system will only survive if people realise it is a public duty, a judge warned yesterday when a $248 million theft trial collapsed because two jurors wanted time off. Mr Justice Gareth Lugar-Mawson said he had made it clear to the jurors when they were sworn in on Monday that 'sitting on a jury is a civic duty'. 'If people want trial by jury to continue in Hong Kong they are going to have to accept they have to sit on juries occasionally,' he said. The judge discharged the jury of seven men and two women, just as prosecutor Richard Turnbull was about to provide them with his opening summary of the case. The Court of First Instance hearing was adjourned until today, when it is expected to begin with a new jury. Two jurors had sent letters to the judge asking to be excused on occasions during the six weeks the trial was due to span. Mr Justice Lugar-Mawson said he had decided to discharge the jury because lawyers were concerned about having reluctant jurors. The judge said the law did not allow him to simply discharge the two jurors who wished to be excused and then simply add two more. Jason Wong But-sit, 41, denies eight theft charges involving more than $248 million, which relate to debts owed by Liu Chong Hing Bank to part of the collapsed CA Pacific Group. The offences are said to have been committed between September 27 and December 30, 1997. He also denies false accounting, along with his wife, Kong Suk-yee, 32, involving a loan agreement dated September 23, 1997, between CA Pacific Finance and China Star Consultants.