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| Politics and government |
of Hong Kong
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|This article is part of the series: Courts of Hong Kong|
|Law of Hong Kong|
The Judiciary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is the judicial branch of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. Under the Basic Law of Hong Kong, it exercises the judicial power of the Region and is independent of the executive and legislative branches of the Government. The courts in Hong Kong hear and adjudicate all prosecutions and civil disputes, including all public and private law matters.
It is fundamental to the Hong Kong legal system that members of the judiciary are independent of the executive and legislative branches. The courts of law in Hong Kong comprise the Court of Final Appeal, the High Court (which includes the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance), the District Court, the Magistrates' Courts, and other special courts and tribunals set up by law. The Chief Justice of the Court of Final Appeal is head of the judiciary and assisted in his administrative duties by the Judiciary Administrator. A bilingual court system in which Chinese, English or both can be used was put in place, in accordance with the requirement of the Basic Law.
It was established on 1 July 1997 upon the commencement of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Ordinance to safeguard the rule of law after 30 June 1997. It replaced the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London as the highest appellate court of Hong Kong, The Court comprises five judges — the Chief Justice, three permanent judges and one non-permanent judge from Hong Kong or another common law jurisdiction. There is a panel of eight non-permanent Hong Kong judges and nine non-permanent judges from other common law jurisdictions.
The High Court was established by the High Court Ordinance (Chapter 4, formerly titled the Supreme Court Ordinance), as the "Supreme Court of Hong Kong". It was renamed the "High Court" by Article 81 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong. It consists of the Court of Appeal and Court of First Instance (formally "The High Court of Justice"), both are superior courts of record.
It hears appeals on civil and criminal matters from the Court of First Instance and the District Court, as well as appeals from the Lands Tribunal. It also makes rulings on questions of law referred to it by the lower courts. There are 10 Justices of Appeal, including the Chief Judge of the High Court and three Vice-Presidents.
It has unlimited jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters. It also exercises jurisdiction in admiralty, bankruptcy, company winding-up, family, adoption, probate and mental health matters. The most serious criminal offences, such as murder, manslaughter, rape, armed robbery, complex commercial frauds and drug offences involving large quantities, are tried by a judge of the Court of First Instance, sitting with a jury consisting of seven or, when a judge so orders, nine. There are approximately 42 Judges and Deputy Judges of the Court of First Instance.
The District Court, established in 1953, is the intermediate court of Hong Kong. It has limited jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters. With effect from 3 December 2018, it has civil jurisdiction to hear monetary claims up to $3 million; or where the claims are for the recovery of land, of which the annual rent or rateable value does not exceed $320,000. In its criminal jurisdiction, the court may try the more serious cases, with the main exceptions of murder, manslaughter and rape. The maximum term of imprisonment it may impose is seven years. There are one Chief District Judge and 30 District Judges, among which three District Judges sit in the Family Court and two District Judges sit in the Lands Tribunal as Presiding Officers.
District Judges are always referred to directly in court as "Your Honour", and indirectly (orally or in writing) as "His/Her Honour Judge ...". The Chief District Judge may be referred to in writing by adding the post-nominal "CDJ" and the Principal Family Court Judge by adding the post-nominal "PFCJ". Other District Court Judges are referred to in writing by adding the pre-nominal "HHJ ...".
Deputy District Court Judges may be referred to directly in court as "Your Honour" but indirectly (orally or in writing) they are referred to as "Deputy District Judge ...".
The Family Court is a division of the District Court which is assigned by the Chief Justice to deal with Family cases. Under section 10A of the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance (Cap.179), all family and matrimonial proceedings commence in the District Court (and are assigned to the Family Court). A Family judge may transfer a case to the High Court if it involves high monetary value claims and/or highly complex matters of fact or law. By section 10A(3) of the Matrimonial Causes Ordinance, the Family Court may exercise jurisdiction exceeding the District Court's monetary limits.
Magistrates exercise criminal jurisdiction over a wide range of offences. Although there is a general limit of two years imprisonment or a fine of $100,000, certain statutory provisions give Magistrates the power to sentence up to three years imprisonment and to impose a fine up to $5,000,000. Prosecution of all indictable offences commences in the Magistrates' Courts, the Secretary for Justice may apply to have a case transferred to the District Court or committed to the Court of First Instance of the High Court depending on the seriousness of a case. There are approximately 70 Magistrates, sitting in various Tribunals and seven Magistrates' Courts: Eastern, Kowloon City, Kwun Tong, West Kowloon, Sha Tin, Fanling and Tuen Mun. A Principal Magistrate is in charge of each magistracy. The Chief Magistrate, whose chamber is at the Kowloon City Law Courts Building, oversees the work of all magistracies. The most junior judicial role is that of Special Magistrate, typically dealing only with minor offences such as hawking contraventions, traffic offences and other departmental summonses. Appeals against Magistrates’ decisions are heard by a Judge of the Court of First Instance.
The magistrate are always referred to in court as "Sir" or "Madam" or "Your Worship". Barristers do not generally use the latter to refer to magistrates. In this context, the phrase "Your Worship" is not derived from any religious meaning but from the old English word meaning 'worthy of respect'.
The Chief Magistrate may be referred to in writing by adding the post-nominal "CM", and the Principal Magistrates (presiding over a particular magistrates' court) may be referred to in writing by adding the post-nominal "PM".
Courts exercising juvenile jurisdiction are constituted, as the need arises, under the Juvenile Offenders Ordinance (Cap.226) and other statutes. A juvenile court has exclusive jurisdiction to hear charges against children (aged under 14) and young persons (aged between 14 and 16) for any offence other than homicide. Children under 10 are exempted from criminal responsibility. It also has power to deal with care and protection cases involving young people aged up to 18.
A permanent magistrate may sit as a juvenile court and special procedures apply. The magistrate explains the alleged offence to the child or young person in simple language and provides assistance to the defendant in the conduct of the case. Press coverage of the proceedings in juvenile court is restricted, preventing disclosure of the identity of the defendant. The Juvenile Court sits in the Eastern, Kowloon City, West Kowloon, Fanling and Tuen Mun Magistrates’ Courts.
Coroners are empowered to investigate unnatural or suspicious deaths occurring in Hong Kong (and deaths occurring outside Hong Kong if the body is found within Hong Kong). Except when death occurs while the individual is in custody, or the Secretary for Justice directs, the Coroner decides whether or not to hold an inquest with or without a jury. The inquest is mandatory with a jury where the death occurs in custody. The main purpose of an inquest is to ascertain the cause of and the circumstances connected with the death. If appropriate, a Coroner or a jury may make recommendations designed to prevent the recurrence of the fatality under investigation. The Court is situated at West Kowloon Law Courts Building.
One of the important functions of the Lands Tribunal is to adjudicate claims by landlords for possession of premises, the tenancies or sub-tenancies of which are under the Landlord and Tenant (Consolidation) Ordinance (Cap. 7). Starting from 9 July 2004, the Tribunal also has power to adjudicate claims for possession of premises, the tenancies or sub-tenancies of which have expired by effluxion of time even when they are outside the said Ordinance. The Tribunal also has power to grant consequential relief. Another widely used jurisdiction of this Tribunal is to determine building management disputes. Such disputes arise from, among others, the interpretation and enforcement of the provisions of the Building Management Ordinance (Cap. 344) and deeds of mutual covenant, the appointment or dissolution of management committees, requisitions for owners' meetings and appointment of building management agent. The Tribunal also has unlimited jurisdiction to determine the amount of compensation payable by the Government to a person whose land has been compulsorily resumed or has suffered a reduction in value because of public developments. The Tribunal can also order the sale of land for redevelopment purpose under the Land (Compulsory Sale for Redevelopment) Ordinance (Cap. 545). The Tribunal also exercises appellate jurisdiction over (i) determinations by the Commissioner of Rating and Valuation under the Rating Ordinance (Cap. 116); (ii) determinations by the Director of Lands under the Government Rent (Assessment and Collection) Ordinance (Cap. 515); and (iii) determinations by the Director of Housing under the Housing Ordinance (Cap. 283). In exercising its jurisdiction, the Tribunal has the same powers to grant remedies and relief, legal or equitable, as the Court of First Instance of the High Court. Parties may appoint counsel or solicitors to appear before the Tribunal or, as is often the case, they may appear in person. The tribunal has a President who is a Judge of the Court of First Instance. There are currently two Presiding Officers who are District Judges, and three members.
The Labour Tribunal was set up in 1973 to provide a quick, inexpensive and informal procedure for adjudicating disputes between employees and employers. It deals with claims arising out of a breach of a contract of employment. Claims may include wages in lieu of notice, arrears of wages, statutory holiday pay, annual leave pay, sickness allowance, maternity leave pay, bonus/double pay, severance pay, and long service payments. Claimants can also seek orders for reinstatement or re-engagement; for awards of compensation or terminal payments. Proceedings are mostly conducted in Cantonese before a Presiding Officer. Legal representation is not allowed. Any party aggrieved may appeal on a point of law to the Court of First Instance. There are approximately 8 Presiding Officers, including one Principal Presiding Officer. The tribunal is located at the South Kowloon Law Courts Building in Gascoigne Road. No statistics are provided by the Judiciary on actual waiting times from filing of a claim to first day of trial or ultimate resolution.
The Market Misconduct Tribunal (MMT) was established in 2003 under the provisions contained in the SFO. In accordance with the SFO, if it appears to the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) that market misconduct or a breach of a disclosure requirement under Part XIVA of the SFO has or may have taken place, the SFC may institute proceedings before the MMT. The MMT has jurisdiction to hear and determine any question or issue arising out of or in connection with the proceedings instituted under the SFO.
The Small Claims Tribunal was established in 1976. It deals with monetary claims arising from contract or tort, involving amounts not exceeding $75,000. Hearings are informal and usually conducted in Cantonese. Legal representation is not allowed. Parties may authorise a representative (other than a lawyer) to appear in court. Any party aggrieved by the decision of an Adjudicator may appeal on a point of law to the Court of First Instance. There are approximately nine Adjudicators, including a Principal Adjudicator. The Small Claims Tribunal is situated at West Kowloon Law Courts Building.
The Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance came into force in 1987 providing for the establishment of the Obscene Articles Tribunal. The work of this tribunal covers two main aspects. Firstly, it is responsible for the classification of articles submitted by any public officer, author, printer, manufacturer, publisher, distributor, copyright owner etc. Secondly, the tribunal has exclusive jurisdiction to determine the question of obscenity or indecency when this issue arises in any civil or criminal proceedings in any court. The Obscene Articles Tribunal consists of a Magistrate and two or more lay adjudicators. Lay adjudicators are selected from a panel consisting of members of the public. The tribunal is situated at West Kowloon Law Courts Building.
Judges and judicial officers are appointed by the Chief Executive of the HKSAR after receiving secret advice and recommendations from the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission. The scope of appointees covers all those who preside over the Court of Final Appeal, Court of Appeal, Court of First Instance, District Court, Family Court, Magistrates' Courts, Lands Tribunal, Labour Tribunal, Small Claims Tribunal, Coroners' Courts and Competition Tribunal. The commission is a statutory body established under the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission Ordinance and composed of the Chief Justice, Secretary for Justice (themselves appointed to office by the Chief Executive) and seven others appointed by the Chief Executive of the HKSAR: two judges, one barrister, one solicitor and three other persons unconnected with legal practice. Appointed members serve terms of two years and can be re-appointed for further terms. Decisions are made with a maximum of two dissenters on any vote. Apart from providing a certificate or testimonial in respect of a candidate, provision of any other unsolicited information to any member is likely to be considered an attempt to influence that member's deliberation and result in criminal prosecution and imprisonment for two years.
Hong Kong judges wear British-style outfits, including wigs made of horsehair, with white gloves, girdles and scarlet-coloured robes added for official ceremonies.
In the lower courts, magistrates are addressed as "your Worship", "Sir" or "Madam", and district court judges as "your Honour". In the superior courts of record, namely the Court of Final Appeal and the High Court (which consists of the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance), judges are addressed as "my Lord" or "my Lady" and referred to as "your Lordship" or "your Ladyship", following the English tradition. Masters of the High Court are addressed as "Master". When trials are conducted in Chinese, judges were addressed, in Cantonese, as Faat Gwoon Dai Yan (法官大人, "Judge, your Lordship") before the transfer of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to China, and as Faat Gwoon Gok Ha (法官閣下, "Judge, your Honour") since 1997.
For the Court of Final Appeal, the post-nominal letters CJ are used for the chief justice, PJ for permanent judges and NPJ for non-permanent judges; in the High Court, CJHC for the chief judge, JA for justices of appeal and J for full judges of the Court of First Instance. There is no similar form for the many deputy judges or the registrar of the High Court or for judicial officers of lower courts.
|John Walter Hulme||1844－1860|
|Sir William Henry Adams||1860－1866|
|Sir John Jackson Smale||1866－1882|
|Sir George Phillippo||1882－1888|
|Sir James Russell||1888－1892|
|Sir Fielding Clarke||1892－1896|
|Sir John Worrell Carrington||1896－1902|
|Sir William Meigh Goodman||1902－1905|
|Sir Francis Taylor Piggott||1905－1912|
|Sir William Rees-Davies||1912－1924|
|Sir Henry Cowper Gollan||1924－1930|
|Sir Joseph Horsford Kemp||1930－1934|
|Sir Atholl MacGregor||1934－1945|
|Sir Henry William Butler Blackall||1946－1948|
|Sir Leslie Bertram Gibson||1948－1951|
|Sir Gerard Lewis Howe||1951－1955|
|Sir Michael Joseph Patrick Hogan||1955－1970|
|Sir Ivo Charles Clayton Rigby||1970－1973|
|Sir Geoffrey Gould Briggs||1973－1978|
|Sir Denys Tudor Emil Roberts||1978－1988|
|Sir Ti-liang Yang||1988－1996|
|Sir Noel Plunkett Power||1996 (Interim)|
|Andrew Li Kwok-nung||1 July 1997－31 August 2010|
|Geoffrey Ma Tao-li||1 September 2010－10 January 2021|
|Andrew Cheung Kui-nung||11 January 2021 – present|
A judge is a person who presides over court proceedings, either alone or as a part of a panel of judges. The powers, functions, method of appointment, discipline, and training of judges vary widely across different jurisdictions. The judge is supposed to conduct the trial impartially and, typically, in an open court. The judge hears all the witnesses and any other evidence presented by the barristers or solicitors of the case, assesses the credibility and arguments of the parties, and then issues a ruling on the matter at hand based on their interpretation of the law and their own personal judgment. In some jurisdictions, the judge's powers may be shared with a jury. In inquisitorial systems of criminal investigation, a judge might also be an examining magistrate. The presiding judge ensures that all court proceedings are lawful and orderly.
The Court of Cassation is one of the four courts of last resort in France. It has jurisdiction over all civil and criminal matters triable in the judicial system, and is the supreme court of appeal in these cases. It has jurisdiction to review the law, and to certify questions of law, to determine miscarriages of justice. The Court is located in the Palace of Justice in Paris.
The Courts of England and Wales, supported administratively by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, are the civil and criminal courts responsible for the administration of justice in England and Wales.
In common law systems, a superior court is a court of general competence which typically has unlimited jurisdiction with regard to civil and criminal legal cases. A superior court is "superior" in relation to a court with limited jurisdiction, which is restricted to civil cases involving monetary amounts with a specific limit, or criminal cases involving offenses of a less serious nature. A superior court may hear appeals from lower courts. The highest of the superior courts is the Supreme court.
A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority to judge, adjudicate on, or determine claims or disputes—whether or not it is called a tribunal in its title. For example, an advocate who appears before a court with a single judge could describe that judge as "their tribunal". Many governmental bodies that are titled 'tribunals' are so described to emphasize that they are not courts of normal jurisdiction. For example, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was a body specially constituted under international law; in Great Britain, employment tribunals are bodies set up to hear specific employment disputes. In many cases, the word tribunal implies a judicial body with a lesser degree of formality than a court, to which the normal rules of evidence and procedure may not apply, and whose presiding officers are frequently neither judges nor magistrates. Private judicial bodies are also often styled 'tribunals'. However, the word tribunal is not conclusive of a body's function—for example, in Great Britain, the Employment Appeal Tribunal is a superior court of record.
Small-claims courts have limited jurisdiction to hear civil cases between private litigants. Courts authorized to try small claims may also have other judicial functions, and go by different names in different jurisdictions. For example, it may be known as a county or magistrate's court. These courts can be found in Australia, Brazil, Canada, England and Wales, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Philippines, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa and the United States.
The Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal is the final appellate court of Hong Kong. It was established on 1 July 1997, upon the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, replacing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the highest judicial institution under Hong Kong law. As defined in Articles 19 and 85 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong, the Court of Final Appeal "exercises judicial power in the Region independently and free from any interference." The Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Ordinance and the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Rules set out the detailed functions and procedures of the court.
The courts of Scotland are responsible for administration of justice in Scotland, under statutory, common law and equitable provisions within Scots law. The courts are presided over by the judiciary of Scotland, who are the various judicial office holders responsible for issuing judgments, ensuring fair trials, and deciding on sentencing. The Court of Session is the supreme civil court of Scotland, subject to appeals to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, and the High Court of Justiciary is the supreme criminal court, which is only subject to the authority of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on devolution issues and human rights compatibility issues.
A recorder is a judicial officer in England and Wales and some other common law jurisdictions.
The High Court of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, consists of the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance; it deals with criminal and civil cases which have risen beyond the lower courts. It is a superior court of record of unlimited civil and criminal jurisdiction. It was named the Supreme Court before 1997. Though previously named the Supreme Court, this Court has long been the local equivalent to the Senior Courts of England and Wales and has never been vested with the power of final adjudication.
The Court of First Instance is the lower court of the High Court of Hong Kong, the upper court being the Court of Appeal. Formerly the High Court of Justice of the Supreme Court of Hong Kong, it was renamed the Court of First Instance by the Basic Law after the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to China.
The Supreme Court of Hong Kong was the highest court in Hong Kong prior to the transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom to the People's Republic of China in 1997 and heard cases of first instance and appeals from the District and Magisrates Courts as well as certain tribunals. The Supreme Court was from 1976 made up of the High Court of Justice and the Court of Appeal.
The District Court is the lower court system in Hong Kong, having both criminal and civil jurisdictions. It is located in the Wanchai Law Courts, Wanchai Tower, 12 Harbour Road. In the past there were six district courts, namely Victoria, Kowloon, Fanling, Tsuen Wan, Tuen Mun and Sha Tin, before being amalgamated and moved to the same location in March 1991.
The High Court of the Republic of Singapore is the lower division of the Supreme Court of Singapore, the upper being the Court of Appeal. It consists of the Chief Justice of Singapore and the Judges of the High Court. Judicial Commissioners are often appointed to assist with the Court's caseload. There are two specialist commercial courts, the Admiralty Court and the Intellectual Property Court, and several judges are designated to hear arbitration-related matters. In 2015, the Singapore International Commercial Court was established as part of the Supreme Court of Singapore and is a division of the High Court. The seat of the High Court is the Supreme Court Building.
The judiciary of Pakistan is a hierarchical system with two classes of courts: the superior judiciary and the subordinate judiciary. The superior judiciary is composed of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, the Federal Shariat Court and five High Courts, with the Supreme Court at the apex. There is a High Court for each of the four provinces as well as a High Court for the Islamabad Capital Territory. The Constitution of Pakistan entrusts the superior judiciary with the obligation to preserve, protect and defend the constitution. Neither the Supreme Court nor a High Court may exercise jurisdiction in relation to Tribal Areas, except otherwise provided for. The disputed regions of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan have separate court systems.
Magistrates' courts in Hong Kong have criminal jurisdiction over a wide range of offenses, and in general these offenses must only constitute two years' imprisonment or a fine of HK$100,000; in certain circumstances, sentences of three years may be imposed. All criminal proceedings must begin in the magistrates' courts; the Secretary for Justice may transfer cases to either the District Court or the Court of First Instance depending on the seriousness of the crime.
The Judiciary of Spain consists of Courts and Tribunals, composed of judges and magistrates (Justices), who have the power to administer justice in the name of the King of Spain.
The basis of the Bahamian Law and legal system lies within the English Common Law tradition. Justices of the Supreme Court, Registrars and Magistrates are all appointed by The Governor-General acting on the advice of the Judicial and Legal Service Commission, which is composed of five individuals who are headed by the Chief Justice as their chairman. The Chief Justice and the Justices of the Court of Appeal, including the President, are appointed by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister after consultation with the Leader of the Opposition. Once appointed, the salaries and other terms of appointment of the Chief Justice, Justices of Appeal and Justices of the Supreme Court cannot be altered to their disadvantage. Justices of the Supreme Court can serve until the age of 65 years and, where agreed among the judge, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, may serve until the age of 67. Justices of Appeal can serve until the age of 68 years and, where agreed among the judge, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, may serve until the age of 70 years. The law of The Bahamas makes provisions for the appointment of 12 Justices to the Bench of the Supreme Court, inclusive of the Chief Justice, and for five Justices of the Court of Appeal, inclusive of the President. The Chief Justice, as Head of the Judiciary, is an ex officio member of the Court of Appeal, but only sits at the invitation of the President.
The Judiciary of Sri Lanka are the civil and criminal courts responsible for the administration of justice in Sri Lanka. The Constitution of Sri Lanka defines courts as independent institutions within the traditional framework of checks and balances. They apply Sri Lankan Law which is an amalgam of English common law, Roman-Dutch civil law and Customary Law; and are established under the Judicature Act No 02 of 1978 of the Parliament of Sri Lanka.
The Judiciary of Zambia is the branch of the Government of the Republic of Zambia which interprets and applies the laws of Zambia to ensure impartial justice under law and to provide a mechanism for dispute resolution. Under the Constitution of Zambia, Justices and Magistrates are independent of the government and subject only to the Constitution and the law.