Judge slams justice secretary's response to attacks - RTHK
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Judge slams justice secretary's response to attacks

2020-11-13 HKT 16:35
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  • Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng has been criticised for not moving more quickly to defend members of the judiciary from personal attacks. File photo: RTHK
    Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng has been criticised for not moving more quickly to defend members of the judiciary from personal attacks. File photo: RTHK
Maggie Ho reports
A High Court judge used a ruling on Friday to criticise Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng over her response to personal attacks on members of the judiciary.

In a written judgement, Justice Russell Coleman extended a temporary injunction which the secretary had sought to ban people from publishing personal details of judges or magistrates in light of a series of incidents connected to protest-related court cases.

But he also took the opportunity to complain about the way Cheng has dealt with – or failed to deal with – public attacks on the judiciary.

"It has been the traditional view that judges and the judiciary do not speak out in defence of their decisions or to defend themselves against unfair and inappropriate criticism," Coleman wrote.

"On that basis, in common law jurisdictions like Hong Kong, it was the tradition that the minister responsible for the administration of justice has the duty of defending the judiciary or individual judges against wrong accusations. However, it seems that unfortunately that tradition is in decline and is not now always promptly honoured."

Coleman also warned people against politicising cases, saying judges and judicial officers are not engaged in the political process, and they do not decide political issues.

"Few decisions taken by judges and judicial officers in a contested case are simply a choice between black and white. But, no decision is ever made by a judge or judicial officer making a choice between ‘blue’ and ‘yellow’."

He said that criticism of the judiciary should be "informed, solidly based and properly made" or else it would damage public confidence in the administration of justice and "ultimately to the rule of law in Hong Kong".

The judge also made clear that the injunction is to bar personal attacks and "the public encouragement of the invasion of privacy of, or harassment of, or threats to, or attempted intimidation of judges or judicial officers or their families".

Coleman last month handed a district councillor a suspended prison term after she published the personal information of a police officer online, breaching a separate injunction against doxxing the police.