Bar chairman defends lawyers' right to pre-court drink

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 August, 2004, 12:00am

The chairman of the Bar Association last night defended the right of lawyers to drink before courtroom appearances - as long as it did not affect their performance.


Edward Chan King-sang's comments came after a 'heated' meeting of the association's Bar Council executive over the antics of barrister Roderick Murray.


The association has yet to have a 'responsive' conversation with Mr Murray since his disruptive appearance in court on Monday and now fears for his well-being.


'As far as I know there is not a Bar Association where such rules exist,' Mr Chan said when asked whether regulation over the consumption of alcohol was needed.


'There was a very famous barrister, who eventually became a judge and is no longer living ... some people say he performed much better after drinking.


'The feeling is shared by many people. Therefore we would not say barristers must refrain from drinking before appearing in court. The important principle should be that your performance must not be affected [by alcohol], and ... your conduct must not breach our codes because of drinking.'


The association has launched preliminary investigations into the actions of Mr Murray and wants to talk to him after he forced the temporary halt of a District Court hearing on Monday afternoon.


Mr Murray's in-court mumblings, gestures and interruptions followed a lunchtime drinking session. After the case ended he spoke of the 'bull**** you hear in court'.


The Director of Public Prosecutions later apologised to Judge Chua Fi-lan, who is considering lodging a formal complaint.


The association has yet to decide on formal disciplinary proceedings. At its most severe, it could mean disbarment after a tribunal trial, Mr Chan said.


'We failed to have a conversation where he was responsive, but we would still try to give him a chance to respond [to our questions],' he said of the group's attempts at communication with Mr Murray through the week.


The South China Morning Post found him drinking after several sleepless nights in the Discovery Bay plaza on Tuesday afternoon. Many of his peers now have fears for his health.


The Bar will soon send a letter to Mr Murray to which he will have seven days to reply.


The association also stressed last night that it was keen to help Mr Murray with any problems. He has never been punished for professional misconduct.


'We are very concerned about whether he needs any help,' Mr Chan said. 'On the other hand, you can only help people who allow themselves to be helped. And at this moment also we are very much concerned as to his general well-being, being a member of our profession.'


There had been one formal, anonymous complaint filed against Mr Murray, Mr Chan said. But no further details about the complaint were given.


 
 
 

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