Bills Committee on Evidence (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill - evidence in criminal proceedings via live television link

Bills Committee on Evidence (Miscellaneous Amendments)
Bill -

evidence in criminal proceedings via live television link

The Hong Kong Bar Association is broadly in favor of the
proposal to introduce legislation to permit the reception of evidence
in criminal proceedings in Hong Kong via live television link as set out
in the Evidence (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill.

However, the Bar has a number of concerns which it thinks
ought be addressed. These are:

" The Bar is concerned that the threshold for permitting such evidence
to be given is too low. The proposed section 79I of the Criminal Procedure
Ordinance, Cap 221 speaks of the court permitting a person to give evidence
by way of live television link but that permission for this to be undertaken
would not be given unless, amongst other things, the evidence 'cannot
more conveniently' be given in Hong Kong. The Bar thinks that the legislation
should contain an explicit requirement for the judge to consider the interests
of justice. These would ensure consideration of matters such as the possibility
that the witness may be giving evidence in a place where, despite the
protections in the Bill, there is little or no possibility of any real
sanction for untruthful testimony.

" The Bar thinks that the current proposal can be
improved to make it explicit that such evidence might be taken by live
video link and recorded and that it is not necessary that the evidence
be given live before the jury. While it is possible to construe the current
draft of the bill to permit this, the Bar thinks that the drafting should
be strengthened to put this beyond doubt.

The Bar hopes that this legislation will be a means whereby
the taking of evidence from witnesses who would not otherwise be available
to either the prosecution or to an accused person can be presented in
court in Hong Kong. The Bar hopes that the prohibitive cost of setting
up a live television link will not be an obstacle to accused persons (who
do not have the resources, including financial resources, available to
the government) taking advantage of this technology.

Hong Kong Bar Association

Dated 10 March 2003