2nd UK-China Judicial Roundtable

Judicial Roundtable 2015

The 2nd annual UK-China Judicial Roundtable took place on 14 October 2015, during a three-day visit to the UK by a six-person Chinese delegation led by Grand Judge Jing Hanchao, Vice President of the Chinese Supreme People’s Court (SPC). This year’s theme was judicial impartiality and the impact of the media on fair trial, at China’s request. In his opening remarks, Lord Neuberger, President of the UK Supreme Court, said the annual roundtable initiative had opened a high level and constructive channel of communication between the Chinese Supreme People’s Court and the UK Supreme Court, through which he hoped a greater understanding of the two countries judicial systems could be built.

The initiative was created last year by GBCC with FCO support, with the first Roundtable in Beijing in December 2014, also led by Lord Toulson at Lord Neuberger’s request.

The SPC was keen to understand UK regulations and practice on media reporting before and during a case hearing, especially in high profile cases. Grand Judge Jing Hanchao said that with increasingly close economic cooperation between China and the UK, mutual judicial assistance would become necessary. Such exchanges were therefore an important element of closer relations between the UK and China overall. He called for three possible initiatives to be considered by the two judiciaries: firstly, to strengthen judicial information sharing; secondly, to construct a platform for displaying open justice results and thirdly, to build a platform to deepening the sharing of judicial theory and best practices.

Three UK jurists spoke on the relationship in the UK between the courts and the media: Lady Justice Sharp from the Court of Appeal, Judge Brian Barker, a former senior Old Bailey Judge, and Judge Martin Edmunds. Mr Joshua Rozenberg, a high profile legal commentator, addressed how the media scrutinised the judiciary in this country. Ben Wilson, Head of Communications at UKSC, gave an overview of practical provisions to ensure open justice.

Other Chinese delegates were Ms Li Jing, President of Hubei Higher People’s Court; Judge Liu Jimin, Vice President of Shanxi Higher People’s Court; Judge Sun Jungong, Media Spokesman of the SPC; Mr Zhu Jian, Division Chief of General Office of SPC and Ms Gao Yuan, an official from the Foreign Affair’s Bureau of SPC.

Both sides agreed that in the multimedia age where internet bloggers were subject to few formal laws and regulations in both countries, it was increasingly challenging for the judiciary to balance the principle of freedom of expression while at the same time sanctioning those interfering in the process of fair trials.

On the second day of the visit (15 October), the delegation visited the Old Bailey where they were received by Judge Richard Marks QC. The Inner Temple, keen to develop their own relationships with China, hosted a working lunch attended by Lady Justice Arden, head of International Relations for the Royal Courts of Justice of England and Wales, and several senior judges including Sir John Laws.

Lord Hope, former Vice President of the UKSC, held an informal discussion with the delegation on 16 October in Edinburgh on the reforms of televising trials in Scottish courts in 1992, an initiative launched by Lord Hope himself while he was the Lord Justice General of Scotland and Lord President of the Court of Session. The delegates were delighted to have had the chance to visit Lord and Lady Hope at their Edinburgh home and were extremely touched by the warm welcome. Sun Jungong, Media Spokesperson of the Supreme People’s Court, personally invited Lord Hope to give an interview on the SPC television channel about his pioneering reforms. GBCC also arranged for the delegation to call on Dominic Raab MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, the minister responsible for international relations.

Vice-President Jing said afterwards the Roundtable was one of the most useful events he had ever attended abroad, and expressed his thanks to GBCC. Both sides agreed that the Roundtables should become annual events, with the third Roundtable taking place in Beijing in 2016. Sir William Blair asked Grand Judge Jing whether the Royal Courts could also have a regular dialogue with the SPC. Grand Judge Jing replied that GBCC could discuss this on their behalf with the SPC’s Foreign Affairs Office.

Additional financial support for the Roundtable was provided by the British Embassy’s China Network Fund.

Date posted: 28 October 2015

Categories: Judicial Dialogues