The probe into the Lamma ferry disaster ruled against applications for an adjournment, on Friday, and will begin calling witnesses next week.
An adjournment had been sought by several parties involved in the hearing, which is probing the causes of the maritime tragedy that killed 39 people in the waters off Lamma Island on October 1.
Kevin Zervos SC, the director of public prosecutions, had applied on Wednesday for a halt, until mid-January, to part of the hearings dealing with evidence about the causes of the crash.
Premature release of information, he argued, could affect a police investigation and a potential criminal trial in future.
Mr Justice Michael Lunn, the commission chairman, said the police investigation had almost come to an end. Zervos he noted, had said there was only a “possibility” that police would make further inquiries.
If a criminal trial is held, the judge could direct the jury to consider only the material presented to them during the trial, and to ignore other material obtained from other channels, Lunn said.
“There is no point delaying the calling of evidence,” Lunn said. “It would merely create unnecessary delay.”
Lunn also refused applications for adjournment from the counsels representing Hongkong Electric, the crew of Lamma IV, Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry and the crew of the Sea Smooth. They sought more time to study a mass of documents related to the disaster.
Lunn said the commission was aware of the need for all involved parties to digest the material, but noted the commission’s April deadline for reporting its findings to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
Charles Sussex SC, representing Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry and the crew of Sea Smooth, was allowed to board and inspect the wreck of the Lamma IV with their own experts.
The hearing was adjourned until next Wednesday, when commission counsel Paul Shieh Wing-tai is expected to make his opening remarks.
Hongkong Electric’s Lamma IV and the Sea Smooth ferry, operated by Hong Kong & Kowloon Ferry, collided in the accident.