2015-2016 School of Chinese Seminar 中文學院公開講座
Do They Understand ?
English Trials Heard by Chinese Jurors in the Hong Kong Courtroom
Dr. Eva N. S. NG 吳雅珊博士
School of Chinese, The University of Hong Kong 香港大學中文學院
Date: Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Time: 3:00-4:00 pm
Venue: Room 728, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus
Abstract Trial by jury is a key institution in the common law system. The introduction of lay persons into the judicial process, however, gives cause for concern about jurors’ comprehension of the legal language. Studies conducted in America reveal that most jurors are unable to understand pattern jury instructions due to the linguistic features typical of legalese, which to some sounds like a foreign language.
Now, what if these instructions and legal speeches are uttered in a language non-native to the jurors? This happens to be a common scenario in the Hong Kong courtroom, where English trials are typically heard by Chinese jurors. Until now, only one survey conducted in the early 1990s has shed light on this issue. Drawing on the recordings of two jury trials from the High Court, and an Appellate Court’s judgment quashing a jury verdict, the present study provides further empirical evidence supporting claims about the jurors’ comprehension problem. Failure to address this problem jeopardises not simply the administration of justice, but the very survival of the jury system in Hong Kong. This paper proposes ways to improve jurors’ access to legal speeches and the entire trial to help them return a true verdict.
About the Speaker Dr. Eva N. S. NG graduated from The University of Hong Kong with a BA in Translation. She holds an MA in Translation and Linguistics from the University of Birmingham and a PhD in Forensic Linguistics from Aston University, both in the United Kingdom. She was a staff court interpreter in the Judiciary of the Hong Kong Government before she joined the Translation Programme of the School of Chinese. Her areas of teaching and research include translation and interpreting, forensic linguistics and bilingual courtroom discourse analysis.
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