Reporters denied access to court documents after blanket ban

High Court registry ban means documents concerning criminal cases are withheld

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 January, 2014, 3:59am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 January, 2014, 3:59am

Court documents relating to high-profile criminal cases are off limits to journalists under a blanket ban imposed at the High Court registry.

Attempts by the South China Morning Post to search for such material were unsuccessful.

"Documents for criminal cases cannot be obtained," a registry employee said.

A case in point is the criminal trial of fung shui master Peter Chan Chun-chuen, previously known as Tony, who was jailed in July for 12 years for forging a will of late billionaire Nina Wang Kung Yu-sum.

During the trial, an expert testifying for Chan said the small amount of DNA he found on the document, based on "low-quality" profiling, could have been contributed by two purported signatories to the will. The prosecution's expert said no DNA could be found.

The experts submitted the reports of their DNA tests to the judge and the jury, and testified in court relying on their findings. But the reports were not fully read out in court and the Post was unable to obtain them.

Transcripts of two videos played in open court depicting the intimate relationship between Chan and Wang were provided by lawyers to the jury, but would not be released to reporters through the registry. Conversation recorded in the videos could barely be heard in the courtroom, but reporters managed to get hold of the transcripts from the prosecution.

For a civil case, documents filed by an appellant detailing their grounds of appeal can be released by the court registries, but not similar documents involving a criminal case. Such documents normally point out alleged factual and legal errors made by the judge and lawyers.