Lay members to take part in probing judges complaints - RTHK
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Lay members to take part in probing judges complaints

2021-05-07 HKT 21:14
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  • Lay members to take part in probing judges complaints
The judiciary says it's planning to implement a new mechanism for handling complaints against judges, in which lay members will for the first time be involved in the process.

Local judges have been subject to increasing complaints over alleged political bias, since they started processing a slew of court cases linked to the 2019 anti-government protests.

But the clearing of most judges from wrongdoings have prompted pro-Beijing politicians to push for complaints to be handled by an independent body comprising non-judges.

Following promises by the Chief Justice Andrew Cheung to review the current complaint-handling mechanism, the judiciary has now proposed a new two-tier mechanism in a paper submitted to the Legislative Council.

While current complaints are all handled by the Chief Justice or respective court leaders, less serious complaints will in future also be reviewed by one or more High Court judges.

More serious or complex complaints, meanwhile, will first be probed by a panel of judges led by at least one High Court judge.

A new advisory committee, chaired by the Chief Justice and comprises of judges and representatives from society, will then meet regularly to review and advise on the investigations, with the Chief Justice having the final say over the complaint.

Senior counsel Alan Leong from the Civic Party told RTHK that incorporating public participation is a good thing, provided that proper safeguards are in place.

"For example, you do not allow the public participation to constitute the majority of that committee, and the appointment of lay members would be left to the judiciary, then I think it's alright," Leong said.

"If you can introduce people of a certain political persuasion to outnumber the members of the judiciary in the disciplinary process, then it's certainly not right and it's not acceptable."

DAB lawmaker Elizabeth Quat, who has been a staunch critic of the judiciary's current complaints-handling mechanism, welcomed the proposed changes, calling it an "improvement" that can increase accountability and transparency.

But she said the judiciary needs to make clear what complaints would be dismissed for being "frivolous" or "vexatious", and how advisory committee members would be appointed.

The judiciary said it hopes to implement the new arrangements in the third quarter.