Judges set to stay longer amid protest case backlog

Top News | Angel Kwan 8 Nov 2019

The retirement ages for judges and magistrates are closer to being extended amid a backlog in protest cases.

The changes became closer after a second reading of a bill to extend the retirement age of judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the High Court from 65 to 70 and magistrates from 60 to 65 went through the Legislative Council yesterday.

Functional constituency legislator Tony Tse Wai-chuen said a shortage of judges means long waits before cases - especially those related to the current unrest - can start.

That led to people who had been arrested being released immediately after a case reached a court, Tse said.

And with cases likely to only start after a few months, he added, "some suspects have a chance to reoffend."

According to the current statutory retirement age of judges and judicial officers, Tse said, 26 of them will be retiring this year and next, which would be about 16 percent of the strength.

There were 62 vacancies among 218 positions for judges and judicial officers at the end of March, said Business and Professionals Alliance lawmaker Lo Wai-kwok.

But Steven Ho Chun-yin of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said that extending retirement ages would have limited effect in the current situation as there have been nearly 3,000 arrests arising from protests.

For pro-democracy legislator Au Nok-hin, however, the problem is a result of "the excessive number of prosecutions" brought about because of political motives.

And pro-establishment Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee said judges involved in marches and petitions had shown prejudice so "is it really suitable to allow them to extend?"

angel.kwan@singtaonewscorp.com

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