Liquid lunches and the gumleaf mafia: a survivor's tale

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 October, 2007, 12:00am

Grenville Cross, the city's longest-serving director of public prosecutions, described his post in his article to the latest issue of Hong Kong Lawyer magazine as one that 'is not for those who want a quiet life'.

Few of his seven predecessors, none of whom stayed longer than four years in the job, 'emerged unscathed'.

'The office broke the health of some, while others were brought low by controversy,' he wrote.

During the tenure of the first director of public prosecutions, David Boy QC (1979-1982), the city was rocked by a series of sex scandals. The legal world was badly shaken after a prosecutor stood trial for gross indecency, wrote Mr Cross. Mr Boy, who was ailing and in hospital periodically, decided to retire early at the age of 49.

Mr Boy's successor, Max Lucas QC (1982-1984), was described by Mr Cross as a committed prosecutor and an advocate of the first rank. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 48. Then came the problem of the 'gumleaf mafia' , a loosely formed group of Australian and New Zealand prosecutors known for their good humour and confidence, but also their arrogance and unruly behaviour.

Mr Cross said the third DPP, Joseph Duffy QC (1984-1986), issued a directive in a bid to impose some discipline on his team. But it was not well received by the 'mafia'.

'Within days, two of Joe's three deputies were involved in a fracas at an Italian restaurant in Central. Glasses were broken, and one deputy grabbed the hairpiece of the other, dunked it in the wine, and ran off into the night with the other in hot pursuit,' he wrote. Mr Duffy stood down for health reasons.

When James Findlay QC (1986-1989) took over, the situation worsened. 'The long liquid lunches at the Foreign Correspondents Club now came into their own, sometimes followed by nocturnal carousing.' Mr Findlay's office was also marred by the conviction of senior prosecutor Christopher Harris, caught asking to be provided with underage girls for sex.

Mr Cross took over from Peter Nguyen QC, who was elevated to the bench after three years as the first Chinese DPP. While saying his tenure should be left for others to judge, Mr Cross wrote: 'Perhaps they will say that just to have survived as the DPP for so long was, of itself, no mean feat.'