An outsider such as a London silk would add credibility to the choice of whether to prosecute Prominent legal experts last night called for the Department of Justice to seek outside advice on whether to prosecute Antony Leung Kam-chung for buying a car shortly before introducing a hefty vehicle registration tax increase. Bar Association chairman Edward Chan King-sang urged the secretary for justice to take this course of action. 'Justice must be seen to be done,' Mr Chan said. 'It must appear to the public to be a just decision, especially if, at the end of the day, the decision is made not to prosecute. If the secretary decides not to prosecute, the public will not know what the evidence was and may suspect some kind of hanky panky.' Former Bar chief Ronny Tong Ka-wah said the case was crucial in terms of protecting the rule of law. 'The only way to uphold the rule of law is to let the judiciary decide whether [Mr Leung] is guilty of any offence,' he said. 'Otherwise, people will have grave suspicions over whether justice is being seen to be done and this would bring the rule of law to its knees.' Citing the controversial decision by Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie not to prosecute Sally Aw Sian, a tycoon and close friend of Executive Tung Chee-hwa, over a newspaper circulation fraud case in 1998, Mr Tong said the demand for openness in Mr Leung's case was much higher. 'If they are the least bit reluctant on whether to prosecute, they should dish out the matter to a London silk to consider whether to prosecute or not,' he said. Eric Cheung Tat-ming, an assistant professor with the University of Hong Kong's law faculty, echoed the calls to seek independent legal advice to be sought. Mr Chan said Miss Leung could take public interest into account and decide not to prosecute even if evidence was found to be sufficient, but warned against misusing her discretion. The Department of Justice's Statement of Prosecution Policy and Practice says even if evidence can justify charges being laid, the public interest in prosecuting must be considered. Proceedings may not be considered in the public interest if, for example, the likely penalty upon conviction would be nominal, if the cost of a trial was too high or it would last too long, or if such proceedings were based on a person's age, mental illness, remorse and whether it was a genuine mistake, misunderstanding or misjudgment. But the policy states that the public interest would require prosecution where the suspect is in a position of authority or trust which has been abused or there is any element of corruption or premeditation. Mr Chan said that broadly speaking, the more serious the offence, the more likely it was that public interest would demand a prosecution. Mr Chan said public interest should be considered and legal opinion sought on whether a certain factor was in the public interest, but the fact that Mr Leung or the government might be disgraced by such a prosecution should be irrelevant. Mr Tong said economic considerations should not be used in determining public interest as 'government officials cannot be protected for the sake of stability or for the sake of our economy'. 'That pales into insignificance when one is considering preserving one of the pillars of our society - the rule of law.'