The Fact-finding Ability of Potential Jurors and Public Attitudes Towards the Jury System in Hong Kong

Project: Research

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The jury system in Hong Kong has been practiced for over one hundred and fifty years, first introduced when Hong Kong became a British colony. Since then, the jury system has been described as one of the most important features of the legal system, and its maintenance is stipulated in Article 86 of the Basic Law. However, despite its significance and highly praised values, access to jury trial is limited in Hong Kong. Trial by jury is not available to defendants tried in the District Courts. Defendants are tried by a single judge, who is empowered to pass a sentence of imprisonment of up to seven years. The uncommon sentencing power bestowed on District Court judges has led to calls for the extension of the jury system to the District Courts. However, the Secretary of Justice noted that any change at the present arrangements would require a lengthy, detailed and in-depth study. It is against this background that the research team empirically assesses the practicality and feasibility of the extension of the jury system to the District Courts in Hong Kong. Practicality and feasibility of the extension would be justified (1) if the general public favours the jury system, (2) if jurors are competently performing their roles as fact-finders and (3) if there are enough jurors to support the case load.Our preliminary research suggested that the problem of jury shortage can be resolved by lowering the minimum age requirement to 18 years. The encouraging results in our previous study motivated us to extend our research on jury decision making. Our previous study has left important questions unanswered. In the proposed study, we will focus on testing the first two claims supporting the feasibility and practicality of the extension of the jury system. We propose approaching the first issue through a more rigorous study recruiting a representative community sample instead of using a college sample as in our previous study. We will approach the second issue by asking participants to deliberate with others to come up with an agreed verdict as our previous research focused on individual juror decision making. Responses from the public will also be compared with those of legal professionals to assess the degree with which they converge.We believe that this research will give us a clear picture of the public attitudes towards the jury system and the fact-finding ability of potential jurors.


Project number9041937
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/1431/05/17