Delays to reform of old laws attacked

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 December, 2011, 12:00am


The government should follow new guidelines pressing it to enact calls for legal reform more swiftly, lawmakers said yesterday.

Their calls came after the government proposed an anti-stalking law 11 years after the issue was raised by the Law Reform Commission.

One legislator said the slow response to updating old laws was threatening the city's development.

Alan Leong Kah-kit, also a senior counsel, said the delays left legal loopholes unplugged. 'Society as a whole is suffering as a result,' he said.

Paul Tse Wai-chun, of the Legislative Council's administration of justice and legal services panel, said calls for reform should be followed up quickly, as many concerned topical issues of public concern.

'By the time the government responds to recommendations, they might have already gone out of date. It's a waste of resources,' he said.

It is not uncommon for reports to be addressed years after they are written. The Law Reform Commission has waited for as long as 17 years for the government to consider implementing recommendations.

New guidelines set by the commission in October request that when consultation papers are issued, the government should inform the commission which bureau is responsible for considering them.

Two weeks after the Secretary of Justice has informed the relevant bureau or department about the report, it should provide contact details of the person in charge.

A preliminary response should be given in six months, and a detailed public response submitted to the Secretary of Justice within a year.

The commission, headed by Secretary of Justice Wong Yan-lung, has produced 29 reports since 1997, but the government has implemented the recommendations contained in only six of these. The commission's Paul Shieh Wing-tai SC said: 'In the past, many commission reports were simply ignored. We hope the guidelines will at least make the government give a response.'

Both Leong and Tse said the guidelines should be given a further push to boost their effectiveness.

Leong suggested that Chief Secretary Stephen Lam Sui-lung and Finance Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah should give their endorsement, so other bureaus would follow suit.

In 1998, the commission published a report which proposed that laws governing compensation for injury and damage caused by defective or unsafe goods should be reformed.

The government responded 12 years later, saying it would not take forward the recommendations because of strong opposition from the city's trading sector.

Some recommendations in a 1992 report on arrest became law eight years later, but the Security Bureau waited 17 years before it considered whether to implement the rest.