Hong Kong government spends HK$15 million on judicial reviews in last fiscal year

Prior to 2014, the department gained, rather than paid, costs for judicial reviews

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 March, 2017, 9:46pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 March, 2017, 11:55pm

Spending by the Department of Justice on judicial reviews jumped last year despite an overall drop in the number of cases.

According to information released to lawmakers on Thursday, a total of HK$15 million was spent on judicial review cases by the department in the 2016-17 fiscal year, up from HK$6.3 million.

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The net costs were calculated by deducting the amount the department was awarded by the court in victory cases and then adding the cost of charging out cases to external counsel.

In the papers given to lawmakers, the department did not explain why it had to pay more money even though the number of judicial reviews handled throughout the year fell from 211 in 2015-16 to 170 in 2016-17. Before 2014, the department gained, rather than paid out, from judicial reviews.

Among the high-profile cases last year were the challenges filed by the government to unseat localist lawmakers Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching for their anti-China antics when swearing in.

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The pro-independence pair were disqualified by the Court of First Instance, and again lost on appeal. A leave hearing to the Court of Final Appeal is scheduled for August.

In that case, two Senior Counsel were hired to represent the applicants, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung and Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

Meanwhile, the number of civil claims cases in which the justice department represented the police commissioner or police officers rose sharply from 81 in 2015-16 to 209 in the last fiscal year.

Most of the claims, or 136, were settled and HK$1.5 million was paid as damages.

Police also emerged as the most vulnerable among all government departments.

According to the Civil Service Bureau, the force reported an occupational injury rate of 22.9 per cent in the first half of 2016, up from 17.9 per cent in 2015.

The second highest rate of occupational injury came from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, which recorded 15.9 per cent in