Marine Department officials implicated in the Lamma ferry disaster could face prosecution within six months.
After meeting the families of victims last night, Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said the police would submit a report to the Department of Justice in three months. Director of Public Prosecutions Keith Yeung Kar-hung would then spend three months studying the report before deciding whether to lay charges against the officials.
Yuen said the government would also send a letter to the Legislative Council Secretariat today, suggesting the circumstances under which lawmakers could view the full report of an internal investigation carried out by the Transport and Housing Bureau. A summary of the report, which implicates 17 officials up to directorate grade, was released last month.
Transport minister Professor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung and Yuen have said releasing the full report would jeopardise criminal or disciplinary proceedings and breach privacy laws. But the families want to see the full report.
Legco's economic development panel last month passed a motion saying lawmakers should be able to see it. Yuen did not reveal conditions for lawmakers to read the report, but said relatives could seek permission to view the document via civil proceedings.
Yuen said the court would then make a decision on how the report could be released to the families. He said he made the suggestion after consulting an independent lawyer and a "leading British professor". "I hope that could address the issues of disclosing information in the report without jeopardising criminal proceedings and revealing personal information," he said.
The two captains were arrested over the collision between two passenger vessels on October 1, 2012, which claimed 39 lives. Yuen said criminal proceedings against non-Marine Department officials were more complicated, and it would take more time before a decision was made over whether to press charges.
Irene Cheng, whose son Thomas Koo Man-cheung, 24, died in the tragedy, said she was willing to consider civil proceedings. "There's finally something more solid. It's an improvement from the last meetings [with Cheung and others]," she said.
Lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who is representing some of the relatives, said he would soon meet the Department of Justice about the civil action.