HONGKONG will lose one-third of its Court of Appeal judges over the next few months as three of the most experienced judges retire, leaving a large vacuum in the territory's highest court. The second most senior judge in Hongkong, Sir Derek Cons, 64, leaves the judiciary today, and Mr Justice Fuad, 66, and Mr Justice Kempster, 69, step down soon. Sir Derek and Mr Justice Fuad are Vice-Presidents of the Court of Appeal, which means they preside over a panel of three appeal court judges. Apart from their experience, the three are regarded as among the brightest brains on the bench. Mr Justice Fuad will step down at the beginning of next month and Mr Justice Kempster is due to leave in June, although if his Commission of Inquiry into witness protection, which is now under way, is not finished, it is expected he will be invited to stay on until its conclusion. While observers see this as a chance for the judiciary to localise, they concede that finding the right people will be difficult. Mr Justice Liu and Mr Justice Wong are the only two local Chinese High Court judges of experience, but it is thought unlikely the Chief Justice Sir Ti Liang Yang will elevate them. However, Mr Justice Bokhary, who is also a local, has been tipped to be moved up to the higher tribunal. Mr Justice Liu, president of the Local Judicial Officers Association, said he was aware of the retirements, but had not heard who the replacements would be. ''Localisation is very important,'' he said, but declined to comment further. A source said that Mr Justice Power and Mr Justice Macdougall would be made Vice-Presidents. It is understood that the other Vice-President, Mr Justice Silke, will step down when he turns 65 in September next year. The judiciary would not comment on whether Sir Ti Liang would be staying on as Chief Justice after he reaches 65 in June next year. But sources believe it is likely he will step down, and the recently appointed Mr Justice Litton, who made history by being appointed directly to the Court of Appeal, will be the next Chief Justice.