Barristers face lower legal aid case cap

Top News | Wallis Wang 17 Jun 2021

Authorities are considering lowering the cap on the number of legal aided judicial review cases each barrister can take up, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said.

A review of the legal aid mechanism, to be completed in three to four months, is being conducted, he said at yesterday's Legislative Council meeting. He was responding to oral questions from Elizabeth Quat Pui-fan, who said only 25 barristers among the 1,171 counsels on the legal aid panel took up the 82 judicial review cases last year.

"Each barrister can only handle 20 legal aid cases a year at most," Cheung said. "One of the directions we are exploring is lowering the cap on the number of legal aid cases a lawyer can take to ensure a fair distribution of cases."

Quat suggested the Legal Aid Department put justifications for granting or rejecting legal aid applications online to enhance transparency, but Cheung dismissed the suggestion, as it would violate the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.

Meanwhile, three national security judges questioned two lawyers for representing the SAR's first national security law defendant, who has been granted legal aid.

Tong Ying-kit, 24, allegedly rode a motorcycle into a group of police officers while flying a flag with the "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of the times" slogan on it last July 1, is represented by senior counsel Clive Grossman and barrister Lawrence Lau Wai-chung.

But the defense said yesterday that two other counsels, Nigel Kat and Azan Marwah, would also join Tong's legal team on a pro-bono basis.

Judges Anthea Pang Po-kam, Esther Toh Lye-ping and Wilson Chan Ka-shun said they were not happy with the arrangement, as it might give rise to a scenario in which the department could withdraw legal aid for Tong. That led to Kat and Marwah leaving the legal team.

Tong has been remanded in custody pending a 15-day trial starting on June 23.

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