Top court gets new permanent judge

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 April, 2013, 4:31am

Appeal judge Joseph Fok will replace Mr Justice Patrick Chan Siu-oi as a permanent judge of the city's top court from October.

Chan will become a non-permanent judge when he turns 65 that month. He was in private practice from 1977 until he became a district judge in 1987.

Two non-permanent judges from Australia have also been appointed, taking the number of non-permanent judges from other common law jurisdictions from 10 to 12. There are five local non-permanent judges.

The new appointments are the Honourable James Spigelman and the Honourable William Gummow, both of whom will be non-permanent judges of the Court of Final Appeal. Spigelman, 67, was Chief Justice of New South Wales from 1998 to 2011.

Gummow, 70, was Judge of the Federal Court of Australia from 1986 to 1995 and Justice of the High Court of Australia from 1995 to 2012.

Fok, 50, who will sit on the Court of Final Appeal, graduated from University College London in 1984 and was one of the youngest barristers to be appointed senior counsel, at the age of 37 in 1999. He was in private practice in Hong Kong from 1987 until he became a judge of the Court of First Instance in 2010. He became an appeal judge the following year.

One of his landmark decisions was the 2011 case of a Tung Chung resident who challenged the government's multibillion-dollar Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge project, saying it would affect her health. Fok ruled that environmental protection director Anissa Wong Sean-yee did not have the power to grant a permit to build and operate the bridge's boundary crossing facilities and a 12-kilometre link road.

He ruled that the absence of a separate analysis of the likely environment conditions without the bridge projects meant the impact studies approved by Wong in 2009 did not meet the standards. Fok concluded that Wong did not have the power to approve the projects.

The South China Morning Post earlier reported that the judiciary has struggled to recruit new judges to replace those who are retiring because there is only a limited pool of candidates.