Landmark rulings made before the handover by Britain's Privy Council no longer have to be obeyed by the courts, it is to be claimed in a case heading for the Court of Final Appeal. If the argument is successful, it will wipe out 156 years of legal principles established in the colonial era. For the first time, judges other than those in the Court of Final Appeal would be free to rule in a way they think suitable for the SAR instead of following decisions of English Law Lords. It would also mean ground-breaking Privy Council decisions, including those on human rights, would not have to be followed. Lawyers representing a convicted murderer have argued that the requirement to follow decisions of the British court has put the Court of Appeal at risk of being bound for years by outdated and inappropriate judgments. The issue has been certified by senior judges as a matter of 'great general and public importance'. It will now be for the Court of Final Appeal to decide whether to consider the argument in a full hearing presided over by five judges. Paul Loughran, representing convicted murderer Kong Kwong-san, said: 'It is a point of great importance to the administration of justice, both civil and criminal, which will determine the hierarchy of judicial precedent in Hong Kong.' The Court of Final Appeal replaced the Privy Council as having the last word on Hong Kong cases on July 1, 1997. It is free to depart from Privy Council decisions but all the other courts have continued to follow principles established by the British court. Mr Loughran's argument was rejected by the Court of Appeal last month when it stated it regarded itself as still being bound by a Privy Council ruling. But it agreed the issue was of sufficient importance to go before the Court of Final Appeal. Kong was jailed for life after being convicted of the murder of his friend, Tsang Wai-ming. Mr Loughran says his conviction should be quashed because the judge at his trial refused to allow the jury to consider evidence of Kong's mental state in relation to his claim to have been provoked. The evidence had also been used to support an argument that this was a case of diminished responsibility. A Privy Council ruling has been put forward to support the way in which the Hong Kong judge dealt with the trial. But Mr Loughran submits the appeal court does not have to follow that decision and should be free to reach its own conclusion.