The Bar Association has warned that a proposal to simplify the legal system could jeopardise the principle of justice. Ronnie Tong Ka-wah, SC, former chairman of the barristers' body, also said a proposed mandatory mediation process for civil cases would affect people's fundamental rights and lead to higher legal costs. In November, a working party appointed by the Chief Justice issued an interim report on reforming the High Court system of handling civil cases. It recommended that legal procedures be simplified, courts be made more accessible to the public and litigation costs reduced. Speaking at a meeting of the Legco panel on the administration of justice and legal services, Mr Tong said that although the Bar supported fine-tuning the system in general, any drastic change could affect the principle of justice. 'Expediency must not be achieved at the expense of justice and there can be no compromise of a litigant's right to have a fair hearing,' he said. 'Any shortcuts could both be good and bad and we need a suitable balance. 'Too much simplification would affect the quality of justice deliverance and might not be good.' The Bar also opposed a recommendation to force litigants to undergo mandatory mediation before proceeding to court. 'If a party has a legal right, why should he be compelled to compromise his legal right and accept something less?' Mr Tong asked. He said the process could provide an excuse for defendants to drag a case out, hoping to dry up the plaintiff's funds with the extra legal costs. Legislators have voiced unease over the proposals and questioned whether the public could save time and money if the reform was implemented. A Legco motion debate on the reform proposal will be moved next month by Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, chairwoman of the panel and representative of the legal sector.