Barristers offer to clear backlog
BARRISTERS have offered to sit in the District Court to clear the backlog caused by listing two cases for each judge every day.
The proposal was revealed by Jacqueline Leong QC before she stepped down last night to be succeeded by Ronny Wong Fook-hum QC as the chairman of the influential Bar Association.
''More than half a dozen of our members are prepared to sit in the District Court to hear the urgent cases,'' Miss Leong said.
''They will be there just to clear the backlog and will not be a permanent part of the judiciary.'' However, Miss Leong said the judiciary had not responded positively.
''The real cause of the delay of District Court cases over the last 12 to 18 months is the ridiculous system of double listing.
''Since the second half of 1992, the judiciary started to list before every judge every day two cases even when it is obvious that the judge will not finish the first one.'' Although the judiciary eventually abolished double listing at the end of last year, cases have been double-listed until October this year.
The waiting time for trials and hearings has worsened in the past year, reaching more than 300 days for civil cases.
Miss Leong said 60 per cent of those doubled-listed cases were not heard on the first occasion and had to be re-fixed for another day six months away.
''The poor litigant from the time he applied for a date would have been waiting for 12 months for a hearing. Some of those cases have included criminal cases where people are in custody. Some of them have been employees seeking compensation.
''The long waiting time has defeated the purpose of employee compensation, designed to be a quick remedy.'' New chairman Mr Wong has been the vice-chairman for the past two years.
Mr Wong said after his election he would step up communication with lawyers across the border.
The Bar Association will hold courses for its members on China's constitutional, financial and criminal law.
Mr Wong would urge the Government to allocate more resources to the judiciary to facilitate the use of Chinese in courts.
''The use of Chinese has been bogged down by lack of funds. In order to be true to the suggestion that Chinese will be the official language to be used in court, I think the Government really has to provide funds for the judiciary,'' Mr Wong said.
Gladys Li QC was elected new vice-chairman and Winston Poon kept his post as the honorary secretary and treasurer for the third term.
The other 14 members on the new council include Neville Sarony QC, Geoffrey Ma, Michael Lunn, Barry Sceats, Anselmo Reyes, John Scott, Lisa Wong, Amanda Woodcock, Wong Ching, Anthony Chan, Margaret Ng, Selwyn Yu, Kumar Ramanathan and Simon Leung.
Miss Leong has served the council of the Bar Association for two years.
She said the workload of the chairman had become so heavy that it would be impossible for anyone to do more than one term and suggested the Bar bring in senior supporting staff.