The magistrate who fined the owner of the Chinese-language newspaper Sing Pao Daily News HK$4,200 in a case involving back pay for three of its staff yesterday initiated the rare decision to review the sentence. The move came just a day after the fine was criticised as 'shameful' and 'unacceptable'. Many of the newspaper's staff who have been sacked or who resigned and have filed claims against the company for unpaid wages welcomed the move, but senior barrister and lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah worried whether judicial independence had been jeopardised. 'It is quite rare for a judge to review his own sentence without request from either party, and in such a short period people may wonder if he made the decision out of public and media pressure.' The review hearing, which will be open to the public, will be held in Eastern Court this afternoon. A spokesman for the Department of Justice said magistrates were empowered by the Magistrates Ordinance to review their own sentences within 14 days of them being handed down. The Labour Department was still seeking legal opinion on whether to ask for a review when Eastern Court Magistrate Joseph To Ho-shing told the labour chief of his decision yesterday. Secretary for Economic Development and Labour Stephen Ip Shu-kwan said earlier in the day that the sentence may convey the wrong message to the public. Mr To, who was appointed to his present position last July, said in his judgment on Wednesday that the penalty was on the lower end of the scale because Sing Pao Newspaper Management had been sincere in resolving the issue and the chances of reoffending were slim. But the Labour Department said it was likely the company would soon face other prosecutions as it was still struggling to settle unpaid wages estimated by the employees to stand at HK$15 million to HK$16 million. The newspaper has promised to settle wages owed for November with its 360 staff today, including those who have been sacked or resigned. The management has also promised to pay wages for December on January 25 and those for January on February 15. Employers are required by law to settle wages seven days after a working month. Unionist lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan said the Labour Department was helpless. He said the government should consider turning cases of delayed payment of wages into fixed-fine offences, with the penalty set at double the amount of unpaid wages. Some of the 47 workers who have been sacked or who resigned and threatened to lodge winding-up proceedings against Sing Pao if it failed to pay their wages today, received anonymous phone text messages after a meeting with the employer's legal representative on Wednesday. The messages described them as troublemakers and said they were taking advantage of the situation.