Jury duty in British Shanghai

If you were a British male under 60 living in Shanghai who made over 50 pounds per year, you were required to perform jury service.  There were very few exemptions.  Officially even Municipal Councillors had to attend.  The small size of the British community living in Shanghai meant that members of the community could be quite often called out to sit a jury members on civil and criminal cases.  A number of residents served multiple times. 

Over the years the unwillingness of almost always totally white British juries to convict fellow Britons of murdering Chinese was lamented.   To some, the problem was acute.  The first Chief Judge of the British Supreme Court for China and Japan, Sir Edmund Hornby, who believed that "English criminal jurisprudence has been too long marked by an over-consideration for the guilty" proposed in 1876 abolishing jury trials where the defendant was accused of killing a local.  Hornby had had the experience of a jury acquitting a defendant when in his charge he had made it absolutely clear the defendant should be convicted of manslaughter.  

Even in the 1930s when two British Shanghai policemen were acquitted of killing a Chinese beggar (see the blog Scene of the Crime I), the British Consul General, John Brenan, expressed his dismay that British juries were most reluctant to convict a white man on Chinese evidence. 

Other than this, the jury system functioned well. Even Hornby considered it invaluable to have a jury to sit with a judge to avoid the sole judge becoming too powerful and ensure that justice was seen to be done.  If anything is to be lamented, it is the modern day tendency in systems based on the British system to do away with juries as far as possible.  They serve a very valuable function in keeping the legal system rooted in the needs of the people the courts are meant to serve.  

The Americans did not have juries, a fact American judges often lamented.  This will be the subject of a subsequent blog.