Contempt charges over 'fake' document
Three businessmen face contempt of court charges for submitting allegedly forged evidence in a civil case, in the first known case of its kind since the launch of civil justice reform in April 2009.
Since the reform, parties to a court case have been required to sign a statement to say their testimony and evidence is true.
Tsui Loi, Choi Yee-fan and Chow Wing-kun appeared in the District Court yesterday after the plaintiff in the previous case, Kinform Limited, alleged that a complaint letter submitted by the trio was forged.
The court heard that, in submitting the evidence, the three had also signed the statement of truth.
Selwyn Yu SC, for Kinform, told deputy district judge Herbert Au-Yeung that it was contempt of court for the trio to submit the forged document and to declare such evidence as genuine. Tsui and Choi were represented by lawyer Victor Lee and Chow Wing-kun by Martin Wong.
Contempt of court is a criminal offence and offenders can be jailed.
The original dispute arose from a HK$800,000 timber sale deal between Kinform and Tsui and Choi. Chow, who had once worked for Kinform, later gave evidence against the company.
The allegation of contempt of court arose during the exchange of legal documents.
In the trial, Yu yesterday also requested that solicitor Victor Yeung, who had acted for Tsui and Choi, give evidence in court. But the defence counsels argued that the communication between Yeung and his clients should be protected under legal professional privilege.
The deputy judge ruled that the handling solicitor had to testify in the court but only on limited matters, such as whether he had fully explained to his clients the content of the legal documents before they were submitted to the court.
The trial continues today.
Wong Kwai-huen, who was president of the Law Society when the reform was launched, said the requirement for parties to sign the statement of truth was important as it ensured litigants took seriously the documents they submitted to the court.
'All along, the courts have been very serious about the truthfulness of the parties' testimonies, and giving false evidence under oath is perjury or contempt of court,' Wong said.
'Before the reform, parties may have argued that the documents were prepared by their lawyers and they did not understand or were unaware of the content. But now, they can hardly raise that argument, unless they can persuade the court they have made a pure and unintentional mistake.'