The High Court has spared Chief Executive John Lee from punishment over his late submission of copies of consent for election advertisements to the Electoral Affairs Commission.
In a judgement handed down on Thursday, judge Queeny Auyeung said the non-compliance as Lee ran for CE was caused by inadvertence and no bad faith was shown.
The judge noted that about 800 consent of support forms had already been processed in compliance with the law, before it was discovered that Lee failed on three occasions to submit documents within one working day of the publication of advertisements in April.
"There was no reason to suggest that the Campaign Office singled out the three Consent of Support Forms for special treatment. After the non-compliance was discovered, there were no other non-compliances," she said.
"The whole course of conduct suggests that the non-compliance was purely out of inadvertence in the midst of heavy workload, tight timeframes, limited manpower and lack of communication."
Auyeung said the non-compliance was remedied the same day that the media made an enquiry about the matter, adding that Lee promptly gave the media an explanation.
"No special advantage was gained by Mr Lee. In fact, his... attitude was candid. I consider it just to grant the relief sought."
Lee filed a writ in June, asking the court to exempt him from the requirement under the Electoral Procedure (Chief Executive Election) Regulation and the penalties involved.
Offenders face a maximum penalty of a HK$5,000 fine and six months' imprisonment.
Lee has to bear the costs of the secretary for justice, who was the respondent in the case. The judge said these costs were worked out to be HK$64,289.
RTHK has reached out to the Chief Executive's Office for comment.