Lawyers not rubbish, says 'misunderstood' judge

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 September, 2005, 12:00am

The Justice Department yesterday defended private lawyers hired to prosecute complex commercial crime cases after a retiring judge was quoted as saying many were lap sap, or rubbish.

District Court judge Fergal Sweeney, who will retire tomorrow, told Ming Pao that taxpayers' money was wasted as many defendants who should have been convicted were acquitted because of these lawyers.

The judge was reported to have said 20 per cent of them were lap sap but yesterday he told the South China Morning Post there had been a misunderstanding, which he attributed to the translation of his comments.

The department said: 'We are satisfied that most of our fiat counsel perform up to standard, and we are reassured by the fact that in 2004 the overall conviction rate in the District Court was 90.1 per cent, up from 87.5 per cent in 2003.'

A spokesman said complex commercial crime cases were vetted by experienced counsel in the commercial crime unit of the department's prosecutions division before trial counsel were allocated.

He said the Director of Public Prosecutions would take appropriate action if the director was made aware of poor performances by particular fiat counsel.