Legal tilt fails as Next Digital loses appeal

Local | Sophie Hui 11 Jun 2021

Next Digital yesterday lost a legal challenge against police seizing documents during a national security raid on the media group's Tseung Kwan O headquarters last year.

More than 200 officers raided Next Digital's base on August 10 after its founder, Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, and nine others, including Lai's two sons and senior executives, were arrested that morning for allegedly colluding with foreign forces and suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.

The media group asked the high court to order the police to return the seized materials on grounds of irrelevance and legal professional privilege ,as well as journalistic materials and those outside the scope of the search warrants. It also asked the court to grant an injunction order to stop the police looking at the documents seized.

High court judge Wilson Chan Ka-shun handed down a written judgment dismissing both requests and said the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the lawfulness challenge of a search warrant under an ordinary civil proceeding. "It is patently clear that any challenge as to the lawfulness of a search warrant can only be brought by way of judicial review proceedings," he wrote.

Chan also said there is an existing protocol to deal with any legal professional privilege or journalistic material claims to strike a balance between the interests of Next Digital and the police. Having benefited from the protocol, Chan said, the media group could not at the same time bring everything to a standstill by an injunction order. "They simply cannot have their cake and eat it," he added.



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