New rules for China's jury system

New selection and regulation procedures for jurors have been announced for this month's pilot reform of the jury system, with clear and detailed rules for selecting jurors, their duties and their relationship with judges.

Jurors are required when a court hears public interest cases which draw wide public attention or criminal cases that may involve a sentence of more than ten years. In Chinese courts, a juror exercises the same power as a judge but cannot hear a case alone nor act as chief judge of a collegial panel. Jurors must form at least one third of a collegial panel.

Legislators, judges, prosecutors, police officers and lawyers are excluded from service by the new regulation.

The number of jurors of a local court should be at least three times the number of judges.

The new rules further clarify that jurors can rule on the facts of a case but not the application of law.

Normally jurors were ordinary citizens over 23 years of age who do not necessarily have legal training and perform their duties part-time. The new regulation raises the eligible age to 28 and lowers the education requirement from junior college to senior high school.

The selection mechanism for jurors will change from personal application or organizational recommendation to random selection from local qualified people.

The project will be tried out in Beijing, Chongqing, Fujian, Guangxi, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Jiangsu, Shaanxi and Shandong.

Chinese courts have been making more use of jurors. According to the Supreme People's Court, about 210,000 jurors were used in about 2.19 million trials last year, up from 87,000 in 2013.

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