Judge criticises shorthand rule

A HIGH Court judge yesterday criticised the administrators of the judicial system for having rules and then making no provision to implement them.

Mr Justice Godfrey, at the start of a civil case, asked counsel what arrangements they had made for a shorthand writer to take a note of evidence from witnesses.

They looked surprised, consulted their solicitors, and said no arrangement had been made. Because the case came up at short notice, none was available when they asked a private firm for an official shorthand writer.

The judge remarked that he was not a clerk and was not going to take a longhand note of witnesses' evidence like a ''colonial magistrate sitting in a jungle''.

He said the system was badly administered as there were rules for which they made no provision.

Under Order 68, an official shorthand note must be taken of oral evidence in civil High Court cases, unless the judge directs otherwise.


Mr Justice Godfrey said he had a solution and handed them a typed form saying under these circumstances he asked counsel and solicitors to give an undertaking to take a full note of the oral evidence and in the event of an appeal to provide a full transcript of the evidence. Only if this were given, would he dispense with the shorthand note.

Both barristers, Mr Horace Wong and Mr Chan Chi-hung, agreed and the case about a disputed contract proceeded.

It has long been a sore point that civil judges are not provided with shorthand writers.