Justice chief advised to steer clear of Tang case

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 19 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 19 February, 2012, 12:00am


A former director of public prosecutions says the secretary for justice must exclude himself if his department needs to decide whether to prosecute Henry Tang Ying-yen or his wife Lisa Kuo Yu-chin for building an unauthorised basement.

Former prosecutions chief Grenville Cross told the South China Morning Post that Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung would need to seek an outside legal opinion in such a politically sensitive case.

'[Wong ] must assure the public that, in light of his association with Tang and his own government position, he will not be the decision-maker in this case, and that any decision will be taken by a senior prosecutor,' Cross said.

Cross stressed that Wong could not ensure his impartiality as the top decision-maker on the prosecution of a such a case because he was a political appointee and a long-time colleague of Tang.

Cross said Hong Kong should do as other common law jurisdictions, such as Britain and Australia, and remove the secretary for justice from prosecutorial decisions altogether. Instead, such decisions should be made by a politically independent director of public prosecution.

'This would assure the community and promote public confidence in the integrity of the legal system,' Cross said.

He said the decision whether or not prosecute in the basement case must be made soon because Tang would not be able to run for office if charged. The 1,200-member election committee will meet on March 25 to select a chief executive.

'Everyone must know well before March 25 whether or not the DOJ will charge him or his wife,' Cross said.

A spokeswoman for Wong said the office had in place mechanisms to ensure that prosecutions were pursued fairly and impartially.

'If there is an issue or sensitivity with regard to the matter or the person involved, seeking independent advice from outside counsel or delegating the prosecution decision to the director of public prosecutions are options available for consideration,' she said. 'And these options have been adopted in past cases.'