PROFESSIONAL tribunals will no longer be able to strike off or suspend members without giving reasons, following a ground-breaking High Court ruling. Until now, dentists, pharmacists, doctors and civil servants could be disciplined without being told why tribunals had found against them. But, in a strongly worded judgment released yesterday, Mr Justice Rogers said the present system led to 'a denial of justice'. Lawyers last night welcomed the ruling, claiming disciplinary bodies should not be allowed to ruin people's lives without giving them recourse to appeal. A legal expert said: 'These tribunals can destroy someone's career and livelihood and never give any reasons for their decisions, so this is very significant. 'How can you exercise your right to appeal if you do not know why you lost? You've got to know why you weren't believed to mount an appeal. 'Clearly, it's going to affect all government and disciplinary tribunals. Now, for the first time, the High Court has realised you cannot make a decision without giving the reasons.' Mr Justice Rogers criticised the secrecy surrounding tribunal hearings after overturning a decision by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board Disciplinary Committee to suspend pharmacist Foo Chung-ning. In February last year, Mr Foo, 50, who runs the Fu Ning Dispensary in Causeway Bay, was suspended for six weeks after employee Jimmy Luk Ting-fai sold an anti-depressant without a prescription or supervision. Mr Luk was fined $3,000 for selling the drug to an undercover Health Department inspector who visited the pharmacy when Mr Foo popped out for lunch. The board found the pharmacist guilty of lack of diligence but gave no reasons for its ruling. Mr Justice Rogers noted a six-week suspension would result in a far greater loss to Mr Foo than the fine imposed on Mr Luk. The pharmacist, who was allowed to carry on working pending his appeal, claimed the suspension would have cost him at least $200,000. The judge said if tribunals did not give reasons it was virtually impossible for people to appeal against their decisions. 'Fairness requires that a tribunal such as this gives sufficient reasons for its decision to enable the parties to know the issues to which it addressed its mind and that it acted lawfully,' he said. 'Nothing onerous is required, only a few simple sentences. I regret in this case this has not happened. The effect on the ultimate decision is that there is a denial of justice.' Lawyers said it was the first time in Hong Kong someone had won an appeal against a disciplinary board finding because it failed to give reasons.