Judge dies weeks after retirement

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 December, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 December, 2000, 12:00am

Court of Final Appeal judge Mr Justice Charles Ching - once renowned as Hong Kong's most ferocious cross-examiner - died only weeks into his retirement yesterday, aged 65.

Chief Justice Andrew Li Kwok-nang broke the news in a hastily arranged session in the Court of Final Appeal. 'We mourn his passing and salute his memory. To his family, we send our deepest condolences,' Mr Justice Li said.

Mr Justice Ching is survived by his wife and three daughters, including barrister Adriana Ching.

The lawyer of 41 years was among the first batch of permanent judges in the Court of Final Appeal, from which he retired in October after an emotional farewell on September 9. 'He was looking very much to retirement. He told me that,' said Cheng Huan SC.

The senior counsel remembered Mr Justice Ching as 'the most admired all-round silk in Hong Kong, highly respected by all members of the Bar. He never had a chance to enjoy retirement. He had been such a successful lawyer, a highly respected judge. His illness had been so sudden', Mr Cheng said.

Lawrence Lok SC, who acted on several occasions as a junior to Mr Justice Ching when he was a defence counsel, said: 'He had inspired many generations of lawyers . . . in everything: personal charm, charisma, advocacy.'

Mr Justice Ching was renowned as one of the best cross-examiners in Hong Kong. Mr Lok recalled appearing with Mr Justice Ching, then a Queen's Counsel, in defending former legislator Ho Sai-chu and wife Ko Tse-ha in a conspiracy to defraud trial in 1993. The couple were acquitted.

Mr Justice Ching, who started his career in 1959 as a barrister and was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1974, was in private practice until July 1995 when he was appointed straight to the Court of Appeal.

He was understood to have bought a house last year in Sunningdale in Berkshire, England, and had a new swimming pool built. 'I don't think he ever had the chance to swim in it,' a lawyer said.