Respect for court rulings urged

November 5, 2019

The public has the right to express their views on court decisions and related matters within the boundary permitted by the law, the Department of Justice said today.


However, when expressing views on court rulings, one must respect judicial independence, it said in a statement responding to media reports on the courts and prosecution process.


The department noted the Basic Law provides that the Chief Executive shall appoint judges of Hong Kong courts on the recommendation of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission.


This independent commission consists of nine members, including the Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal as Chairman and the Secretary for Justice as a member. Seven other members appointed by the Chief Executive are two judges, one barrister, one solicitor and three people not connected with the practice of law.


The Chairman and no fewer than six other members may exercise and perform any of the functions, powers and duties of the commission. A resolution of the commission is not effective if there are more than two votes not in favour.


The statement also pointed out the Basic Law stipulates that Hong Kong courts shall exercise judicial power independently, free from any interference. Members of the Judiciary shall be immune from legal action in the performance of their judicial functions. Judges and other members of the Judiciary will only determine the merits of the case according to law even where a case has political, social or economic ramifications.


The department said Hong Kong’s legal system is transparent and most court proceedings are open to the public. Written judgments will usually be uploaded onto the Judiciary's website for public inspection. Therefore, there is no need to speculate on what was behind a court's decision on any matter, much less assert that members of the Judiciary might have taken into account factors extraneous to the law.


Regarding the handling of cases, when the investigation is completed, a prosecution would only commence if sufficient admissible evidence to support a reasonable prospect of conviction is available.


In some cases, if no plea is taken at the first appearance and is adjourned for further hearings, the magistrate will deal with bail strictly in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Ordinance.


The magistrate is required by law to grant bail to a defendant unless it appears to the magistrate that there are substantial grounds for believing that the defendant would fail to surrender to custody, commit an offence while on bail, or interfere with a witness or pervert or obstruct the course of justice.


In deciding bail, the magistrate will consider the position and arguments of the prosecution and the defence, and all relevant materials.


If bail is granted, conditions on bail can be imposed depending on the circumstances of the particular case to ensure the defendant returns to court and will not commit any offence while on bail.


If dissatisfied with the magistrate's decision on bail, both the prosecution and the defendant can apply to the Court of First Instance of the High Court for review or variation.


The department said Hong Kong courts administer justice and make their judgments in accordance with the law and admissible evidence. Judgments also set out the reasons by which they come to the decisions.


Some may not like the outcome but should not endanger the impartiality and selflessness of the Judiciary by expressing criticism arbitrarily or unfairly, nor should they arbitrarily attack members of the Judiciary.


These acts will only undermine the rule of law in Hong Kong, it said.


Scandalising the court or the members of the Judiciary by published words or publication of any report which prejudices the fair trial of an ongoing proceeding may constitute criminal contempt, it said, adding contemnors can be sentenced to fines and imprisonment.

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