Lawyers praise retiring judge's sense of justice

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 April, 2008, 12:00am

The city's legal community turned out in force yesterday to mark the retirement of Mr Justice William Waung Sik-ying after a legal career spanning almost four decades.

At a farewell hearing in the High Court, Mr Justice Waung, who made his debut as a deputy District Court judge in 1984, received plaudits from all levels of the profession.

Bar Association chairman Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung SC noted the high esteem in which the judge had been held since his days as a talented admiralty (maritime) lawyer, and later through his role as the city's primary admiralty judge. 'As a practitioner, Mr Justice Waung was well known for his superb command of the law and skilful handling of complicated issues,' Mr Yuen said. 'As a judge, [he] has demonstrated compassion and a strong sense of justice.'

The judge was recognised for his ability to blend the British adversarial tradition with the conciliatory approach preferred in Chinese culture, he said. His influence had extended beyond the rather narrow geographic confines of the city to British admiralty courts, where a 1998 judgment of his - although overturned by Hong Kong's Court of Appeal - was adopted by that country's appellate court.

Mr Justice Waung used his farewell speech to commend the continued independence of the judiciary.

Having penned more than 500 judgments in his time, he noted that the work rate of the city's High Court judges was heavy by global standards, particularly when viewed against that of judges in civil law jurisdictions, such as the mainland and continental Europe.

'I believe the monthly output of a Hong Kong High Court judge would be equivalent to the yearly output of many of those judges,' he said.

But even with such high demands, he said his colleagues from across the border looked at Hong Kong's system with a degree of envy, particularly because the city's judges reached decisions without input from colleagues and free of political considerations.