Convicted barrister in last bid to overturn perverting justice sentence
A barrister has appealed to the top court to overturn his conviction for trying to pervert the course of justice by sending letters to a witness, also a lawyer, to dissuade her from testifying against his client.
Philip Wong Chi-wai, 59, argued his case in the Court of Final Appeal yesterday after the lower court threw out his appeal.
He was jailed by the District Court in 2010 for six months but released on bail before the term was up, pending his appeal.
The case stemmed from the 2005 prosecution of company director Lau Wing-sun for theft. Lau allegedly created a deed to obtain bank loans secured on property that did not belong to her.
Wong, who represented Lau, sent letters through a law firm to Fanny Mak, a solicitor who had handled the transaction and the deed for the bank, before she testified as a prosecution witness.
Wong wrote that the information Mak was to give in court should be protected by legal professional privilege, which obliges a lawyer to keep information from a client confidential. He urged her not to testify and threatened to take legal action and report her to the Law Society if she did.
Yesterday, Clare Montgomery QC, for Wong, asked the five-judge panel to decide whether an intent to pervert the course of justice could be imputed when a lawyer pursued what he believed to be an "arguable lawful objective" in his client's interest.
She also asked if a lawyer could be guilty of perverting the course of justice if he, acting in good faith and performing his professional duties, drafted letters threatening legal action.
Jonathan Caplan QC, for the government, said belief was not enough. "Lawyers do not have special defence … otherwise it will give lawyers a licence to do whatever they want," he said.
The hearing continues today. Wong remains on bail.