Judicial review costs under more scrutiny

Local | Adeline Mak 21 Jan 2016

At least HK$29 million was spent on external counsel to handle judicial reviews last year, with the number of applications for leave to apply for reviews increasing 43 percent over the past five years.

There were 259 applications, compared with 168 in 2014 and 103 in 2011, Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong- wah said.

From 2011 to 2014, the number of leave applications granted increased from 51 to 84, Lau said in a written reply to lawmaker Ng Leung-sing yesterday.

For applications filed in 2015, 48 had been granted so far and 155 or 60 percent were pending determination.

Lau said HK$28.94 million was spent on external counsel last year, compared to HK$40.88 million in 2011.

He gave the example of HK$10.49 million expenditure in the review regarding the Environmental Impact Assessment reports of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai- Macau Bridge.

Eric Cheung Tat-ming, principal lecturer and director of clinical legal education at the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law, said arguing that a judicial review is a waste of money is illogical, as all legal procedures come with a price in society under rule of law.

"There must be some people wishing to abuse a system in a civilized society, but that does not mean we have to deny the whole system altogether, rather we should focus on whether the procedures can prevent abuses. There is a high threshold for application of judicial reviews in Hong Kong."

Stephen Hung Wan-shun, president of the Law Society, said the legal cost of judicial review cases is not necessarily higher than others.

Hung said as far as he knows, most applicants in judicial review cases have applied for legal aid and a discounted rate is charged under the legal aid scheme.

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