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  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 10:02am
Lamma ferry disaster
NewsHong Kong

Releasing full report into Lamma ferry tragedy a threat to justice, says Keith Yeung

DDP responds to outcry that full Lamma tragedy study is not being made public by saying the move could impede court cases

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 April, 2014, 12:29pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 April, 2014, 11:34pm

The chief prosecutor has broken his silence to defend the government's refusal to release much of a report into the 2012 Lamma ferry tragedy, saying full disclosure may pose a "serious risk" to criminal justice.

The 430-page report could be made public after all criminal proceedings had ended, Director of Public Prosecutions Keith Yeung Kar-hung told lawmakers. "It is not the case that the report can never be disclosed," he said. "It is just a matter of timing."

It’s is not the case the report can never be disclosed. It is a matter of timing

Yeung gave his first public explanation for the Department of Justice's move to condense the report's 430 pages and 399 appendices into a 30-page summary for release last week. It followed a flurry of calls for transparency over the October 1, 2012, crash between two passenger vessels off Lamma that claimed 39 lives.

The public prosecutions director spoke at a meeting of the Legislative Council economic development panel on the report, a day after retired High Court judge William Waung Sik-ying asked the government for a full disclosure, citing "public interest".

Waung also floated the possibility of bereaved families seeking legal redress, which legal scholars said might force the government to hand the report to either the families or their legal representatives.

Yeung said his decision was "purely legally based", not taking into account possible civil lawsuits against the government as a result of the full release.

Grilled by lawmakers, he declined to say if the move did the families an injustice, as their right to seek redress would expire in September 2015 under local laws.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung would meet all families on May 15, Yeung said.

Secretary for Housing and Transport Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, who was also at the meeting, said he would discuss with Yuen the possibility of letting families read the report with a non-disclosure undertaking.

Yeung said the report was unlikely to be submitted to the courts as evidence because of stringent rules on admitting evidence. Therefore, it would be unfair to the trial if the jury could view what defendants had said in the report, he noted.

"I do not advise a full disclosure at this stage or else it poses a serious risk to any future criminal procedures," he said.

Yeung further cited Malaysian tycoon Lee Ming Tee, whose trial almost collapsed as two courts found he had been denied a fair trial by the publication of an excerpt of a government investigation report. Lee was eventually jailed for a year in 2004 for his role in inflating the true value of the Allied Group.

Yeung said the Court of Final Appeal let the prosecution proceed with the case - but criticised the handling of the report.

He cited the top court's judgment: "The notion that this was in aid of governmental transparency does not bear examination. Such transparency is laudable, but no one could reasonably suggest that it should be pursued at the risk of prejudicing a person's criminal trial on a serious charge. Publication could in any event have taken place after the trial."

The ferry report, compiled by the Transport and Housing Bureau, accuses 17 marine officials up to directorate level of misconduct. It found "suspected criminality" linked to the disaster and has been transferred to police for further investigation.


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This article is now closed to comments

If the HK government has it's way, it will take them years or decades before they disclose it because by then, the information would be useless..................this is the biggest problem with HK's government..............Completely lacking transparency and always helping their own people when they know they have screwed up.............
Dai Muff
Don't think some of us have not noticed the zeal with which our government pursued culpability in Manila, and the reluctance with which it does here. Or in mainland China.
Well ok, expedite the criminal proceedings then and then let the judge whoever he/she is decide on whether disclosure would compromise criminal justice. Should the judge state that it is only fair that details of the report be kept confidential so be it. However, the DPP should not assume the role of the court. Stating the report will 'eventually' be disclosed is loathsome.
Yes Keith Yeung, let's disclose it in 100 years time, when everyone involved and hopefully you as well is dead.
How About
The report is good, the investigators already found culpability, let's deal with that as a fair administration should. DPP's job is to mete out justice, not to protect any rank-n-file from receiving it.
While DPP Mr. Yeung is bathing in the limelight, can you trace and track where has the Donald Tsang file gone, and the recommendation on that report from the previous DPP before he retired? We'd love to know.
Most extraordinary!
See comment from 'wsywuang' timed at 5.22 pm on 28th April (i.e. yesterday) and referring to an email sent by the correspondent at 21.10 hr HK time (presumably 27th April) identifying errors in the original report.
Nothing from the SCMP in response?
If the court can order not to disclose the report but the report is essential for the victims and families to seek redress, could the court extend the period to seek redress until the report has been fully disclosed ?
Errors in SCMP report. I have written to Stuart Lau and Editor asking for my Email sent at 2110 hours HK time (1510 Italian time) to Suart Lau to be published by SCMP in full.
William Sik Ying Waung
Sent from Arezzo Italy
There are thousands of ways of extending the criminal investigation to well beyond September 2015, has Rimsky Yuen not hinted that ? He said the criminal investigation will cover an area and depth far, far greater than the previous Inquiry, the report of which already took a year and a half to produce.


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