A PROPOSAL to create three permanent senior posts in the prosecutions division of the Legal Department has been withdrawn in the face of criticism from legislators. Members of the Establishment Sub-Committee attacked the Attorney-General's proposals to recruit three Deputy Principal Crown Counsel as premature. The three posts were to be in the Bill of Rights section, Commercial Crime and the Independent Commission Against Corruption. But a review of briefing-out procedures - under which cases are dealt with by counsel from outside the department - has yet to be completed. Sub-committee member Emily Lau Wai-hing said: 'It appears that the administration has already decided to increase the number of cases handled in-house while cutting down the briefing-out cases. 'As the report is still progressing, is it too hasty to add three new posts now?' Peter Nguyen, Director of Public Prosecutions, said the report would be released next month. He said the department had been reducing the number of briefing-out cases for the past six months, resulting in total savings of about $1.1 million. Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, the legal constituency representative, urged the proposal be dropped. She said the department had been training court prosecutors to take over magistrate's courts prosecutions, thus further freeing of Crown Counsel for other work. 'To add three [counsel] seems to be premature. Is there any hurry . . . to approve this proposal before the report of the review is out?' she asked. Mr Nguyen maintained that the department had a full caseload and no directorate posts had been created since 1988. The request to add three permanent posts was justified he said. 'The number of sections has increased from 10 to 15 from 1988 to the present, but the number of [counsel] has stayed unchanged: there are still 14 deputy counsel. We can now barely manage our work. 'Generally, work has been increasing over the years both in terms of the number of court cases and the amount of advice that we have to give, which is really the reason for our application for the increase,' he stressed. 'It will be extremely difficult for us to cope with the number of cases if we are not given these three new posts.' Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien urged the administration to consider withdrawing the proposal. Democrat Cheung Man-kwong urged the administration to take back the proposal and then supply more details on the system of briefing out. 'If the proposal was discussed at the Legco Legal Services Panel before it is tabled here, it would stand a better chance of being passed,' he said. Mr Nguyen finally agreed to withdraw the proposal after repeated disapproval from legislators.