Chief Justice Andrew Cheung has instructed that the Judiciary should immediately review the overall arrangements of handling cases involving a large number of litigants and observers at all levels of courts.
The Judiciary made the statement today in response to enquiries on the arrangements for the hearing of a case involving 47 defendants at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts, emphasising that the review is subject to the safeguarding of the due administration of justice.
The statement pointed out that the courts must adjudicate cases in accordance with the law and court procedures, adding that the courts have always sought to complete the hearing of each case as soon as practicable to ensure efficient administration of justice.
Regarding the case in question, the Judiciary explained that all 47 defendants must be heard before the same magistrate according to court procedures as they were charged with the same offence under the same case.
The case was first brought to the court for mention hearing on March 1. The many defendants involved were all charged on the day before and arranged to appear in court the following day.
Given the very short time available, the court had to urgently make the best use of the limited court facilities to put in place arrangements for the hearing of the case.
Such arrangements included those relating to operational arrangements for the hearing, broadcasting, allocation of seats for the public and media, crowd control and security.
The hearing lasted for four consecutive days, spanning more than 40 hours. In addition to handling the hearing process, the court had to deal with admission queuing, court security and anti-epidemic arrangements every day, involving hundreds of court users both inside and outside the court.
In the face of such unprecedented and huge challenges, there were inevitable shortcomings in some of the implementation details, the statement emphasised.
The Judiciary said it has taken note of the views from various sectors of the community on the hearing and other arrangements for the case.
Chief Justice Andrew Cheung has instructed that subject to the safeguarding of the due administration of justice, the Judiciary should immediately review the overall arrangements of handling cases involving a large number of litigants and observers at all levels of courts.
The goal of the review is to adopt improvement measures in a timely manner in respect of all relevant areas, including scheduling of hearings, allocation of seats for observers and broadcasting arrangements, the statement added.