Special tribunals which would consider whether groups should be banned under proposed national security laws may not have to follow the usual rules applying to the courts, the solicitor-general said yesterday. Robert Allcock told a public forum different procedures might be needed because the tribunals would be dealing with sensitive issues. The forum, at the Foreign Correspondents' Club, was organised by the jurists' lobby group Justice. 'The basic thinking is that with issues relating to national security there may be a case for having procedures which do not necessarily follow the general procedures in courts of law,' Mr Allcock said. He cited the need to protect confidential material, such as that relating to intelligence. 'I think it should be recognised that these types of cases do throw up problems which the normal rules of the courts may not deal with appropriately.' The banning of organisations on the grounds of national security is dealt with in a consultation paper released last month by the government that proposes controversial anti-subversion legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law. Appeals against a ban imposed by the secretary for security would first be considered by an independent tribunal. Under the proposals, the role of the courts would be restricted to considering points of law. Concerns were raised yesterday that the tribunals would use a different standard of justice to the one used by the courts. Senior Counsel Gladys Li said: 'It would be reassuring to have either the courts involved at the initial stage of an application to overturn a proscription, or an appeal procedure which enables a complete review of fact and law in the court.' Ms Li said experience had shown that tribunals, such as those which have dealt with the screening of asylum seekers, could become hardened in their approach and end up viewing everyone who appealed to them as a liar. 'It is that kind of mind-set you want to avoid,' she said. Bar Association chairman Alan Leong Kah-kit, SC, said: 'I really think there is no justification being made out for a separate tribunal. You are devising a means of taking away the function of the courts.' These issues should be dealt with by the courts because 'people in Hong Kong are now trusting our judges more than any other institution', Mr Leong said. Legislator and barrister Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee was concerned that those appearing before the tribunals would not enjoy the same safeguards provided by the courts. 'They are going to get less than justice. They will be dealt with in a different way to those suspected of other crimes,' she said. Paul Harris, a barrister and spokesman for the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, said the courts were well equipped to deal with sensitive issues such as the protection of confidential material, and it was not necessary to have tribunals with special rules. Mr Allcock said there was a need to 'flesh out' the way in which the tribunals would work and appealed for the public to express their views. He was responding to a question from Carole Petersen, an associate professor in law at the University of Hong Kong, who challenged a claim in the government's consultation paper that the use of tribunals was necessary to ensure fairness. During the debate, Mr Allcock came under pressure to explain why the government would not release a white bill to enable public consultation on the wording of the proposed laws. He repeated the government's position that a blue bill, presented directly to the Legislative Council, would be sufficient. An attempt to get him to provide a better explanation was greeted by loud applause from the audience of about 100.