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Tuesday, October 06, 2020, 08:56
​New CFA judge shows trust in HK's judiciary
By Chen Zimo in Hong Kong
Tuesday, October 06, 2020, 08:56 By Chen Zimo in Hong Kong

A top foreign judge accepting an offer to serve on Hong Kong’s highest appellate court showed the international community’s trust in the city’s judicial system, Hong Kong’s leader and a legal expert said on Monday.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor on Monday accepted the recommendation of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission (JORC) to appoint Lord Patrick Stewart Hodge, deputy president of the UK Supreme Court, as a non-permanent judge from another common law jurisdiction on the Court of Final Appeal (CFA).

I have every confidence that these distinguished jurists from overseas with profound judicial experience will continue to be a unique strength of our judicial system.

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, Hong Kong's chief executive

This brings the number of the CFA’s non-permanent judges from other common law jurisdictions to 14. Every case heard at the court requires the presence of at least one non-permanent judge.

ALSO READ: CE accepts appointment of Lord Hodge as appeals judge

Under Article 90 of the Basic Law, Lam would seek the Legislative Council’s endorsement for the appointment when the legislature resumes its meetings on Oct 14.

Lam said the presence of the esteemed non-permanent judges manifests the judicial independence of Hong Kong, helps maintain a high degree of confidence in its legal system and allows Hong Kong to maintain strong links with other common law jurisdictions.

“I have every confidence that these distinguished jurists from overseas with profound judicial experience will continue to be a unique strength of our judicial system,” Lam said.

The Court of Final Appeal exercises the power of final adjudication of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region under Article 82 of the Basic Law. The article allows the court to invite judges from other common law jurisdictions to sit on it.

The city’s judiciary said Hodge’s appointment will provide greater flexibility in dealing with the caseload of the Court of Final Appeal. Last month, an Australian judge, Justice James Spigelman, offered Lam his resignation as a non-permanent judge of the court without citing any specific reason.

READ MORE: HK govt: Judicial independence guaranteed under Basic Law

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, senior counsel and executive councilor, said Hodge’s acceptance of the role demonstrated the international recognition of Hong Kong’s judicial independence.

He said Hong Kong’s judicial system was still respected by the international community and its image remained unaffected by the recent resignation of a non-permanent judge.

Tong said he believed that these overseas judges, with their high reputation and recognition by qualified local legal professionals in the JORC, would bring a wealth of experience, legal spirit and principles in the legal field.

Through interaction with local judges and barristers, a world-class bench could consolidate and improve the judicial exercise in Hong Kong, Tong said.

Richard Cullen, visiting professor at the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law, said it was a “positive sign” that life in Hong Kong continues in a proper way after the application of the National Security Law – which was needed to help restore stability in the city.

“The appointment provides confirmation that HK continues to be a place where a very senior judge from the UK is pleased to take up a new appointment as a non-permanent judge,” Cullen said in an emailed response.

Cullen also noted that on balance, having access to very experienced overseas judges to act as non-permanent judges is good for Hong Kong. It is a practice allowed under the Basic Law as part of the overall structure set out in the constitutional document for the operation of the Judiciary in the HKSAR, he added.

Contact the writer at mollychen@chinadailyhk.com

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