October review set for wiretap case

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 August, 2005, 12:00am

Expedited hearing is in the public's interest, says judge

A government challenge to a recent judge's ruling that covert surveillance carried out by the ICAC was unconstitutional and deprived the accused in a bribery case of a fair trial will be heard in the High Court in October.

Mr Justice Michael Hartmann of the Court of First Instance agreed yesterday to listen to full legal arguments from government and defence lawyers on October 26, 27 and 28, after granting a judicial review of last month's decision by District Court Deputy Judge Julia Livesey to free four executives on corruption charges.

The four - Shum Chiu, Wong Hung-ki, Yu Chi-wai and Ann Wong Tin-sum, who are all senior executives of Housing Department suppliers - walked free after Deputy Judge Livesey ruled that when anti-corruption officers taped a conversation between one of the four defendants and his lawyers in November 2002, they had violated lawyer-client privilege.

The four allegedly offered bribes to Housing Department officials to win government contracts.

Mr Justice Hartmann yesterday said an expedited hearing was necessary because several issues raised in Deputy Judge Livesey's ruling were of public interest.

Hong Kong residents are better served by the case being heard earlier rather than later, the judge said.

The government asked the court in its judicial review application to quash the judge's decision, claiming the conversation taped in November 2002 was not privileged communication.

The judicial review application, filed by the government two weeks ago, came a day after Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen issued a rare executive order to provide legal cover for covert surveillance by law-enforcement agencies. The order came in response to criticism the ICAC faced in the courts over its covert practices.

When Mr Yu met his lawyers in November 2002, Tang Hop-sing secretly taped the conversation for the ICAC. Mr Tang, a subordinate of Mr Yu, was working as an ICAC undercover agent. A lawyer at the November meeting testified that he had given legal advice to the pair.

The government argued in its application that Deputy Judge Livesey had based her decision on the notion that any form of violating legal professional privilege warranted halting the prosecution without assessing the nature of the communication.