Big-hearted judge who reads letter of law with compassion

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 March, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 03 March, 1996, 12:00am

HIGH COURT judge Mr Justice Duffy has defended his right to treat offenders with compassion.

'I cannot apologise for being humane,' the judge said in response to rumblings from magistrates that he is allowing too many prisoners to walk free on humanitarian grounds.

Mr Justice Duffy, who has gained a reputation in some legal circles as a crusader for the underdog, told the Sunday Morning Post why he opened his heart in court.

'If I allow an appeal on humanitarian grounds, it is because I feel the situation requires that I should do so.

'Every day, we deal with people whose lives are lived out in a very straightened and often impoverished circumstances,' he said.

'To apply the strict letter of the law in every situation is neither humane nor is it necessary,' Mr Justice Duffy said.

'Hong Kong is one of the safest places in the world and its society is well protected from criminals,' he said.

'There should always be room for mercy in our hearts - especially when dealing with immigrants whose only sin is that they have come to Hong Kong because they want a chance to earn some money to support their families,' the judge said.

Mr Justice Duffy is due to retire this month, but some magistrates have expressed concern that the senior judge had overturned their decisions on appeal because he 'felt sorry' for the offenders.

Mr Justice Duffy has challenged the policy of prosecuting pregnant illegal immigrants, saying he will continue to release them on appeal until it is changed.

The courts were embarrassed by the detentions because new-born children landed in jail, he said.

Mr Justice Duffy is to return to Scotland after a 24-year career in Hong Kong which included a period as director of public prosecutions.



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