Suspect arrested over share in damages deal

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 February, 2009, 12:00am

Police have arrested another person suspected of helping legal claims in return for a share of the damages, the Department of Justice said yesterday, and investigations could soon result in more prosecutions.

Officers arrested 21 people during a July operation against the illegal activities of recovery agents. They searched 22 premises and seized 11 computers and 900 box files of documents.

Two people, including a lawyer, were charged with maintenance and champerty - the common law offence of encouraging and aiding others to launch a lawsuit in return for a portion of the damages awarded.

Despite long-held concerns of recovery agents touting for clients outside Labour Department service centres and physiotherapists, July's case was the first of its kind.

The deputy solicitor general, Frank Poon Ying-kwong, announced another person had been arrested, with more documents and computers seized.

'According to my knowledge, the police are also investigating other cases', which might soon result in prosecution as well, Mr Poon told the Legislative Council's administration of justice and legal services panel.

The two suspects arrested earlier will go on trial in the District Court in May. It is unclear if the new arrest is related to the same case.

Mr Poon said the government was considering legislating against recovery agents touting for business, but would first await the judgment in the current case.

Lawmakers asked why the government should start conducting a review on possible legislation only after the case. Mr Poon said the judgment would provide guidance on the 'policy direction' for a possible bill, such as length of sentence.

Representatives of the Law Society have long complained that the government turns a blind eye to recovery agents, as highlighted by the prevalence of advertisements for such services.

Mr Poon stressed the frequency with which the government had broadcast warnings against recovery agents, as well as the posters on display in areas where agents were likely to tout.

Warnings against recovery agents were broadcast on television 2,029 times and on radio 871 times from July 9 to January 31.