Home Affairs chief to exhaust legal channels over $25 million burden Setting up a fund to help flat owners of an Aberdeen building repay the landlord $25 million in compensation for a fatal accident 10 years ago would only be considered as a last resort, a government minister said yesterday. Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping told a special meeting of the Legislative Council's home affairs panel he would exhaust all channels to help the 136 flat owners of Albert House. The owners have paid more than $5 million to victims who suffered in the collapse of an illegal fish tank and canopy, which killed one person and injured eight in 1994. But the Court of First Instance ruled on Monday that the owners had to pay an additional $25 million to landlord Aberdeen Winner Investment for their share of legal costs, interest and compensation. 'We will first exhaust legal channels to find out whether the owners' liability can be justified, and if such is the case, whether the compensation can be reduced or paid over several instalments,' Dr Ho said. 'Setting up a fund to help the owners is very easy, but we have to consider whether public money is effectively spent. 'This will be our very, very last resort.' The Court of Appeal yesterday upheld Monday's judgment. But the court overturned the previous costs order by requiring the landlord to shoulder 90 per cent of the cost of the appeals process. About 20 Albert House owners staged a protest outside the Legislative Council before attending yesterday's panel meeting and consulting the Legal Aid Department. Allan Shek Kwok-keung, Southern District councillor and leader of the group, said he was worried that the owners might have problems applying jointly for legal assistance as the incorporated owners of the building had been wound up by the court. Independent legislator Albert Cheng King-hon challenged Dr Ho to set up a joint charity fund. To applause from the owners in the public gallery, Mr Cheng said: 'If you donate $200,000 to the fund, I will follow suit.' The home affairs secretary promised at the meeting to consider Democrat Andrew Cheng Kar-foo's suggestion to set up a long-term statutory fund to help owners pay huge compensation for unsafe structures in the future. 'The fund can be created by setting aside a certain percentage of the building insurance to avoid a repeat of the Albert House incident,' Andrew Cheng said.