Court list testimony to the lengthy wait for justice
THE sheaf of papers hanging in the corridors of the Supreme Court bears silent testimony to the long wait for justice in Hong Kong.
This is what is known as the ''fixture list''. It comprises the names of the accused and the charges against them. It also specifies on what date they should appear in court.
Those on the list are either those on bail awaiting their hearing or on remand in prison - taking up cells at taxpayers' expense. In some cases the trials are set as much as four years in advance.
One man charged with robbery and possession of an imitation firearm last year is marked down for a four-day hearing commencing in April next year.
But the most startling delay is for a defendant facing fraud charges laid in 1989. His hearing starts today.
At Western Court, the longest waiting time for a hearing is more than three months and the shortest is 13 days. The average at Sha Tin is 59 days. At Eastern, the wait can be anyt hing from 55 to 87 days.
Chief Inspector Steve Carruthers of the Police Narcotics Bureau said the delays appeared to be getting longer.
He blamed the lack of judges and their practice of taking notes in longhand.
''Most cases take about a year to go to trial. It can be difficult to remember details of cases that far off. From an evidence point of view, that is bad,'' he said.
''There is obviously something wrong with the way the High Court is managed.
''It is not just drug cases. Every trial takes a long time to come to court,'' Inspector Carruthers said.
Barrister Valerie Penlington said the delays should be taken in hand by the yet-to-be appointed judicial administrator.
''Things are in a deplorable state, particularly in the District Courts. There aren't enough judges.
''You are getting adjournments at the moment until March next year,'' he said.