Highest court may return home

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 April, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong's most senior judges will return to the home of the city's former highest court if a proposal for the Court of Final Appeal to move into the current Legislative Council building is adopted.

Negotiations are under way on moving the highest court to the 97-year-old building, which originally housed the former supreme court, after Legco moves to the new government complex at Tamar, due for completion in 2011.

As well as marking a symbolic return to the former seat of justice, the move would free the court from what the legal profession sees as gross inadequacies in its present quarters in Battery Path.

The government says it is considering the proposal, put forward by Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang, while the judiciary says it has handed over details for consideration. 'We are providing information on the space and other requirements, including various supporting facilities, of the Court of Final Appeal to facilitate the administration's consideration,' a judiciary spokesman said.

A government spokesman said no other suggestions had been received on the future use of the building, which offers 9,410 square metres of space compared with 1,600 square metres in Battery Path.

Mr Justice Li, in his speech to open the 2006 legal year, said it had 'become clear that the present building at Battery Path is inadequate for the functioning of the Court of Final Appeal,' with the courtroom perhaps the worst of all the inadequacies.

He also said the former supreme court was a 'prestigious historic building on a prominent site'.

'The location of the court there would not only provide it with sufficient space but would be fitting, having regard to the court's position at the apex of our judicial system.'

Former Bar chairwoman Audrey Eu Yuet-mee said the return of the top court to Jackson Road would improve accessibility to the courts. Jackson Road was more convenient, and the design of the Legco building had a more 'transparent' feel, with better press and public galleries, than the building on Battery Path, she said.

Another former Bar Association chairman, Alan Leong Kah-kit, said he expected to see the city's top judges back in their rightful place. 'I can't see any reason for anyone to oppose this,' he said.

The Government Property Agency was co-ordinating the exercise in determining the future use of the Legco building 'with input from relevant bureaus and departments', the government spokesman said, but he was unable to provide a timetable for any decisions to be made.