Lawyers set pay limit for legal aid work

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 February, 2008, 12:00am

Lawyers want to be paid up to HK$3,000 an hour for their pretrial work if they are hired to take up criminal legal aid cases - seven times the administration's proposed rates.

The Law Society of Hong Kong was presenting its position at yesterday's meeting of the Legislative Council panel on administration of justice and legal services. It contends the government-proposed hourly rates of HK$425 for High Court cases and HK$300 for District Court cases are unrealistic.

Society president Lester Huang said: 'Many experienced lawyers have indicated they would not want to act in criminal legal aid cases. Those who will suffer will be the defendants.' Criminal legal aid lawyers are currently not paid for their pre-trial work.

The government has agreed to revise the system and says its proposed fee structure would mean a 30 per cent increase in spending on criminal legal aid fees.

Panel member and barrister Martin Lee Chu-ming accused officials of 'not knowing how the outside world operates'. Miriam Lau Kin-yee, panel member and lawyer, said the rate of HK$425 an hour could not even cover a lawyer's operating costs.

Principal assistant secretary for home affairs Christine Chow Kam-yuk agreed to consider the Law Society's views.