A distinguished figure in political and legal circles

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:20pm


John Swaine

John Swaine, QC, SC, one of the city's most senior barristers and a former Legislative Council president, died on Tuesday. He was 80.

Swaine (pictured) had remained active in legal circles until his retirement last year, and his death prompted many expressions of grief from fellow barristers and Legco colleagues.

Of Sino-British descent, Swaine was born in Shanghai and educated in Hong Kong and Britain. He is remembered as serious, highly respected man, with a fondness for horse racing. He was knighted in 1995.

'He was a very solid counsel with very high standing in legal circles,' said Ronny Tong Ka-wah SC, who had known Swaine since his student days more than 40 years ago.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Legco president Tsang Yok-sing were saddened by Swaine's passing, saying it was a 'grievous loss'.

Educated at the University of Hong Kong and Cambridge University, Swaine was called to the Hong Kong Bar in 1960 and took silk in 1975. The Bar Association conveyed its 'deepest condolences' to Swaine's family and said details of the memorial service would be provided later.

An appointed Legco member and vice-president from 1991-1993, he was elected president before the term ended in 1995.

In his last prominent case in 2009, Swaine represented New World China Land - which was embroiled in a conflict of interest scandal - in a constitutional challenge regarding Legco's powers to investigate.

Allen Lee Peng-fei, a former lawmaker, said Swaine rarely laughed but was very nice.

In 1995, then-lawmaker Martin Lee Chu-ming SC called Swaine a 'first-rate referee in a soccer match', referring to his impartiality in presiding over meetings.

Swaine was chairman of the Jockey Club from 1993 to 1996. The Swaine Cup is named after him.

He is survived by wife Gwendoline, four sons and one daughter.