Retiring High Court judge has appeal

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2005, 12:00am

Dozens of members of the legal fraternity crowded into Court 1 in the High Court yesterday to bid farewell to a retiring High Court judge.

Mr Justice Gareth Lugar-Mawson, 56, leaves Hong Kong at the end of this month after 25 years in the city's legal profession - close to 10 as prosecutor, six as District Court judge and nine in the High Court.

The judge said he and his wife want to be closer to their three adult children in England.

The judge has presided over hundreds of criminal cases, from murders and rapes to commercial crimes and stock market offences, as chairman of the Insider Dealing Tribunal.

Famous cases fought before him include socialite Pamela Pak's tax evasion case, in which he handed down a three-month prison term, and a case of a film producer slapping pop star Anita Mui Yim-fong .

He also presided over the trial of Ewan Launder , once described as 'the most powerful merchant banker in Hong Kong', convicted of accepting a $4.5 million bribe.

Director of Public Prosecutions Grenville Cross, a former colleague of Mr Justice Lugar-Mawson in the Legal Department (now the Department of Justice) in the 1980s, told how the then crown prosecutor began his Hong Kong career at the Kowloon branch, which housed prosecutors nicknamed the 'Kowloon Cowboys'.

'It was into this wild-west environment that the unsuspecting Gareth, then a cub solicitor from the north of England, sought to find his feet and adjust to life in the Orient,' Mr Cross told the packed courtroom.

'I recall that once he came to ask me what a 'shroff' was. Then he wanted to know what was meant by the phrase 'voire dire proceeding' [a closed-door preliminary hearing] that was on everyone's lips.'

Mr Cross praised the retiring judge's 'professionalism, diligence, humour and capacity to get on top of complex issues'.

Bar Association chairman Philip Dykes wished Mr Justice Lugar-Mawson the best in his new abodes of France and England, saying it was with a 'heavy heart' he bade farewell to the judge, who 'has a good few hundred years in prison sentences in him yet'.

Law Society president Peter Lo Chi-lik called Mr Justice Lugar-Mawson a rational and even-tempered judge .

Mr Justice Lugar-Mawson said he was confident Hong Kong's tradition of a capable and fearless judiciary, an independent Bar and a strong and organised Law Society would keeping serving the city well.

High Court Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li wished Mr Justice Lugar-Mawson all the best and suggested he may finally discover the meaning of voire dire during his retirement in France.