Henderson Land

Developer fails in new bid for judicial review over squatters

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 September, 2007, 12:00am

A developer has failed to restart judicial review proceedings into its loss of a plot of land in Tai Po to a family of squatters.

Harvest Good Development, a subsidiary of Henderson Land, had appealed against a December decision by Mr Justice Michael Hartmann striking out an application for a judicial review of the government's refusal to change the law so the land could not have passed to the squatters.

Harvest Good had argued the law, under which title to the property passed, was inconsistent with the Basic Law. However, Mr Justice Hartmann noted the title had technically passed in 1982, about 15 years before the Basic Law came into effect.

He also said the points the company had sought to raise could easily have been raised during the five years of litigation that led to the squatters being given title over the land.

As such, Mr Justice Hartmann described the application as 'artificial' and an abuse of process, and refused to allow the company to name the squatters - Wong Yam-tai and her daughter, Chan Suk-yin - as parties to the review.

The Court of Final Appeal ruled in January last year that Ms Wong and Ms Chan had spent enough time on the land to undo any title Harvest Good or its owner, Henderson Land chairman Lee Shau-kee, might once have held.

The application for judicial review was filed the next day. The decision the company sought to challenge was the government's refusal of a demand that it change the law and pay it compensation for the loss of its title.

But the Court of Appeal, comprising Mr Justice Anthony Rogers and Mrs Justice Doreen Le Pichon, yesterday refused to overrule Mr Justice Hartmann's findings.

The court ruled the issues raised by Harvest Good should have been brought up during the original court battle over the land. Mr Justice Rogers said he had 'no hesitation' in dismissing the appeal.

A spokesman for Henderson Land said the company was unable to comment while lawyers were studying the judgment.