Professor attacks law report changes

LAW reform reports are being sanitised before they are made public, the head of the Law Department at Hongkong University has claimed.

Professor Raymond Wacks said he was unhappy the sub-committee reports of the Law Reform Commission (LRC) were not issued in their original form.

''I think it's wrong for the [full] commission to issue reports which depart from those submitted by the sub-committees. I don't think reports should be modified at all,'' Professor Wacks said.

''Reports should be issued by the sub-committees, and it's up to the Legislative Council and the public to decide whether they want to act on them.

''Why should they be sterilised or modified before they go out? I don't understand that.'' Professor Wacks cited an example that dissenting views in a report on police power to arrest were taken out when the full commission went through it.

''If you read the report, it gives the impression that our views were unanimous but, in fact, two of us disagreed quite strongly with some of the recommendations such as the police power to stop people without reasonable suspicion,'' he said.

''A lot of discussions have been modified, edited and removed. And they have also changed the definition of arrestable offence.'' The report on arrest was issued in August last year.

Professor Wacks said he did not understand why the LRC should have the right to change a report they had spent four years completing.

The LRC's secretary, Mr Stuart Stoker, said it was useful for sub-committee reports to go through the commission.

''The sub-committee has to convince the commission that the recommendations are right. If it convinces the commission, it has a good chance of convincing the public and the Government,'' Mr Stoker said.

''We are not living in an ivory tower. It serves little purpose if we put out a lot of academic papers which suggest a perfect world. We are living in a real world, we should be putting forward proposals that we think are right, practical, solve the problems and have got a realistic chance of being implemented.''