Retired judge called back to bench

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 November, 2012, 3:18am

A retired High Court judge has been called back onto the bench less than a year after he left the judiciary as staffing shortages persist.

The appointment was gazetted on Thursday when Judge Woo Kwok-hing, the former vice-president of the Court of Appeal, returned to the Court of First Instance as a deputy judge.

The two courts form what is called the High Court. Woo will serve until January 31 next year.

Latest judiciary figures, submitted to the Legislative Council this week, revealed the High Court lost the highest number of judges among all levels of courts in the 12 months to March 31. Only 37 of its 53 posts had been filled by the end of March this year, down from 43 judges a year ago.

Civic Party legal-sector lawmaker Dennis Kwok Wing-hang who is also a barrister, said: "[Woo's appointment] highlights a systematic problem that we actually need more permanent judges than deputy ones, although they are very experienced and well-qualified."

The Court of First Instance handled 33,764 cases last year, up from 32,451 in 2010, the judiciary documents showed.

Woo was perhaps best known to the public during his prior role as the chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission, when he appeared in front of media cameras opening ballot boxes for vote counting. Among several commissions he chaired, the judge served as the commissioner on the interception of communications and surveillance before he was replaced by Justice Darryl Saw in August.