Department to fight costs order in CLP verdict

THE Legal Department is to appeal against an order to pay costs following a judicial review which overturned the verdicts on the deaths of two engineers in the Castle Peak power station explosion in August 1992.

A High Court hearing will be held before Mr Justice Liu on March 7.

He ordered Coroner Warner Banks to pay costs after counsel for the station's owners and operators persuaded him that death by accident was the appropriate verdict.

Mr Banks was cited because he presided over the inquest but his costs would be indemnified by the Legal Department.

The decision marked yet another twist in the ongoing Castle Peak blast saga. The jury at the original inquest returned verdicts of accidental death. Then it was found that certain company reports into the blast were not made available to them, and the inquest was re-opened.

The jury then returned verdicts of death by lack of care. These verdicts were overturned at a judicial review last month and the original verdicts restored.

Mr Justice Liu accepted arguments that Mr Banks was wrong in law to have allowed a new verdict of death by lack of care and that the only acceptable verdict was accidental death.

China Light and Power (CLP), which operates the power station, and the Castle Peak Power Company, which owns it and which in turn is owned by CLP and Exxon Energy Ltd, flew English QC Michael Beloff over for the two-day hearing.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, John Wood, will announce whether an appeal will be held into the outcome of the judicial review following the decision on costs.

The Labour Department has confirmed four days have been set aside for its prosecution of CLP, starting on June 8. The case will be heard in Tuen Mun Court.

The Labour Department has accused CLP of breaching the Factory and Industrial Undertakings Ordinance by failing to provide and maintain a hydrogen generation plant and a system of work which, as far as was reasonably practicable, was safe and without risk to employees' health. CLP has pleaded not guilty.