Suspension of jailed lawyer was not unfair, court rules

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 December, 2006, 12:00am

The Law Society's decision to suspend jailed solicitor Andrew Lam Ping-cheung from legal practice was correct and not unfair, the Court of First Instance ruled yesterday.

Mr Justice Andrew Cheung Kui-nung said there had been a procedural flaw - the non-disclosure of a report containing material enabling the society's council to assess Lam's fitness to practise - but it did not prejudice Lam's case.

Lam, a solicitor since 1985, was suspended from legal practice by the Law Society on November 7 on the grounds he was unfit to practise following his conviction in June and four-year jail term for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by attempting to frustrate an Independent Commission Against Corruption investigation.

Lam is free on bail pending an appeal against the conspiracy verdict.

Mr Justice Cheung dismissed Lam's application for a judicial review of his suspension.

Philip Dykes SC, for Lam, had told the court the report to the council contained information about a complaint from a district councillor to the society which led to inquiries being made of the Correctional Services Department.

The department had confirmed Lam made legal visits to prisoners following his release on bail and described the situation as bizarre, the court heard.

Mr Dykes argued that the non-disclosure of the complaint and the responses to it constituted unfairness, in that Lam was deprived of his right to respond to the complaint before the council decided to suspend him.

But the judge objected to the suggestion of unfairness, and ruled the complaint was 'quite irrelevant to the ultimate findings on [Lam's] fitness to practise and the decision on [suspension]'.

'The gist of the [Law Society council's] reasoning was that [Lam] had been convicted after trial of the offence of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, an offence which went against the fundamental principles of practice of the law,' he said.

The fact Lam was not afforded an opportunity to put forward his side of the case did not cause him prejudice, the judge said. He noted Lam had replied to the complaint subsequently.

'The important point here is that the society did not refuse or fail to consider the representations and review its decision,' the judge said.