THE courts may be violating the Bill of Rights every day, the president of the Law Society, Roderick Woo Bun, said. He said there was a strong argument that this happened when a Chinese-speaking defendant in a criminal case was not given a written Chinese translation of the charges he faced and written reasons in Chinese why the court convicted him. In civil cases, it could be argued a Chinese-speaking defendant's rights were violated if he was not given written reasons in Chinese of the court's finding. Mr Woo said urgent steps should be taken to give the courts the option of using Chinese. He said a working party set up by the Chief Justice reported 21/2 years ago that it would be in the public interest for the law and the legal system to be bilingual. Out of Hong Kong's 550 ordinances, he said only 60 had been translated. Yet in less than 30 months, Chinese would be an official language used by the legislature and the Judiciary. He called for the Official Languages Ordinance to be urgently amended so all courts had the option of conducting proceedings in Chinese. Reforms of legal services as presently offered to the public by a split profession were long overdue, he said, pointing out the Law Society had published a consultation paper two years ago. At that time, only Britain, New South Wales and Queensland had two branches of the legal profession. Since then, they have all made or planned changes to make a less rigid division - a reminder that Hong Kong is 'stuck in a time warp'. Likewise, only Hong Kong and Mauritius refuse to allow solicitors to be appointed directly to the High Court. 'This prohibition does nothing to promote the localisation of the Judiciary,' Mr Woo said. He welcomed the Government's proposal to identify eligible candidates by an objective test followed by an assessment undertaken by the Judicial Services Commission. The chairman of the Bar, Ronny Wong QC, said the two branches of the legal profession should not let debate over their roles become divisive. He conceded there were likely to be heated debates in the coming year, when the public was consulted about possible far-reaching changes and said the Bar would zealously guard against measures to tarnish its independence. But he reminded lawyers that solicitors and barristers had a common goal - upholding the rule of law in the efficient administration of justice - and said there were many areas where urgent co-operation was needed.