Court Prosecutors

 

LegCo Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal
Services



Item V - Court Prosecutors



1. The Hong Kong Bar Association is concerned that, as evidenced by its
recent recruitment of Court Prosecutors, the Department of Justice appears
committed to a system of prosecution in the Magistracy by non-professionally
qualified persons.

2. The comparison in the March 2002 Department of Justice's
paper at paragraph 19 with the introduction of "…. a not dissimilar
system" introduced by the Crown Prosecution Service in 1998 is not
to compare like with like. The sentencing powers, and hence the seriousness
of the cases brought in the two jurisdictions, are quite different. In
England and Wales the maximum sentence that may be imposed in respect
of any one offence is six months imprisonment with a maximum aggregate
sentence in respect of multiple offences of twelve months. In contrast,
in the Magistracy in Hong Kong a permanent magistrate may impose a maximum
sentence of 2 years imprisonment under section 92 and 92A of the Magistrates
Ordinance, 3 years imprisonment under section 8 of the Dangerous Drugs
Ordinance, 5 years imprisonment under the Public Order Ordinance and 7
years imprisonment under s. 20(2) of the Firearms and Ammunition Ordinance.

Cost

3. In light of correspondence with the Department of Justice,
in respect of the means by which it was calculated (and asserted at paragraph
14 of their paper) that the average cost of a Court Prosecutor grade officer
conducting prosecutions was $3,045 per court day, it is clear that figure
is an underestimate given that

"Initial training costs are not included" (letter
of John Reading S.C. to the Chairman of the Special Committee on Criminal
Law of the Hong Kong Bar Association 24th April 2002)

It is to be noted that in her address to the Legislative
Council on 4th April 2001 the Honourable Ms. Elsie Leung described that
initial training as being,

"a nine month full-time training course, including
advocacy, rules of evidence, court procedure, court procedure, prosecutorial
ethics and substantive criminal law."

No doubt, the attendant costs are significant.

4. The Hong Kong Bar Association is of the view that greater
use ought to be made of professionally qualified prosecutors in the Magistracy,
in particular in those cases in which the likely consequence of conviction
is a sentence of imprisonment. We believe that there is a pool of well
qualified young barristers, trained at considerable expense to the Community,
ready and willing to undertake that work and we invite the Department
of Justice to make full use of them.

 

22 November 2002

Hong Kong Bar Association