Former DPP among new judges

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 November, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 November, 1997, 12:00am

Former director of public prosecutions Peter Nguyen, SC, was made a High Court judge yesterday as the Judiciary entered a new era with 33 fresh appointments.

The Court of Appeal and Court of First Instance each gained three judges, the District Court gained six, and 12 new magistrates were named.

Two highly respected Law Lords from England were made non-permanent judges of the Court of Final Appeal.

The High Court now has a new deputy registrar and six new part-time recorders.

Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang said the appointments, in which native Chinese speakers outnumber expatriates by more than two to one, would help provide enough judges for cases heard in Cantonese.

The long-awaited appointments, the first below Court of Final Appeal level since the handover, were welcomed by the legal profession.

They ease concerns about the number of temporary judges being used in the courts.

Mr Nguyen, 54, who will consider cases in the Court of First Instance, said he was 'honoured, a bit surprised and very happy' about his move to the bench.

He resigned from the Legal Department two weeks before the handover, saying he intended to return to a career as a private barrister. Mr Nguyen dismissed suggestions a conflict of interest could arise because of his former role.

'I do not think my appointment is controversial.

'It is the jury who will decide whether a defendant is guilty or not and the judge's responsibility to direct them on the law.' But the Judiciary has imposed a six-month 'sanitisation' period during which Mr Nguyen will be barred from considering criminal cases or those involving the Government.

Mr Li said the Chief Judge of the High Court would then vet criminal cases sent to Mr Nguyen to ensure there was no conflict of interest.

He said politics was not a factor in the appointment, which had been made based on Mr Nguyen's skills and experience.

Mr Justice Arthur Leong Shiu-chung, 61, Mr Justice Anthony Rogers, 51, and Mr Justice Michael Stuart-Moore, 53, will move from the Court of First Instance to the Court of Appeal.

Chief District Judge Clare-Marie Beeson, 39, will move to the Court of First Instance, as will Maria Yuen Ka-ning, a barrister specialising in commercial law.

Chairman of the Bar Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, SC, said she was pleased the appointments appeared to have been based on merit and would reduce the 'unsatisfactory' number of acting judges.