Following is the statement by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Grenville Cross at the media session to launch the Yearly Review of the Prosecutions Division 1999 today (March 30):
I welcome you to the Division for the official launch of the second Yearly Review of the Prosecutions Division. The first Yearly Review, which was released on 31 March 1999, was a decisive new initiative. It was designed to inform the community of our contribution to the operation of the criminal justice system. We were pleased that it was well received both locally and internationally. I believe the reason for that is simple : there is a keen and legitimate interest by the public in the work of its prosecuting authority. The Yearly Review of 1999 continues the process we began last year, and, through it, we take this opportunity to re-dedicate ourselves to the promotion of openness and understanding.
For the Prosecutions Division, 1999 was an eventful year. We contributed much on various fronts. Whilst it was a year in which we consolidated and built upon the reform programme we initiated in 1998, we pressed ahead with our determination to modernise, to be more accessible, and to attain yet higher standards of professionalism. As a modern prosecuting authority, we met the various challenges which confronted us with enthusiasm, dedication and good grace.
The Division throughout 1999 vigorously upheld the principle of prosecutorial independence, free from interference. At the same time, our central role remained the firm, fair and effective prosecution of offenders. At every opportunity we were frank and open about the way we went about things. By explaining to the community at large the role in society of the modern prosecutor we sought to place our position in a more understandable perspective.
Throughout 1999, a premium was placed upon ensuring that the Division was as candid and accessible as possible. This reflected our belief that through openness comes understanding. Every opportunity was taken to explain our work, to emphasise the standards we uphold, and to share with others our core beliefs and objectives.
The Year Review for 1998 represented a significant shift towards greater transparency by the Division, and 2,500 copies were issued. No less than 12,000 copies of our Prosecution Policy Booklet, which explains to the public at large our principles, policy and practices, have been distributed. Other publications continued to be widely used and circulated. These included the Prosecution Manual, the Criminal Appeals Bulletin, the Prosecution Division Quarterly, the Criminal Advocacy Course Training Manual, and the Glossary of Legal Terms for Criminal Proceedings.
We sought throughout 1999 to demonstrate to the community at large the importance we attach to giving a frank account of who we are, what we do, and where we are going.
Not only were our publications distributed abroad, but also amongst procurators and other legal officials in the Mainland. Those in the Mainland, particularly the procurators, found them of value in the context of the continuing movement to reform the system of criminal justice in the Mainland.
Contacts with the Mainland
I was pleased that in 1999 we forged closer links with the Mainland. I was honoured to have become the first DPP of Hong Kong to have been invited by the Supreme People's Procuratorate to visit Beijing to explain the prosecutorial system of the SAR to Mainland procurators. The topic of the seminar, which was held on 17 November 1999, was 'Principal Prosecutors Reform', and it was attended by 200 principal prosecutors and Heads of Prosecution Offices of People's Procuratorates from the provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. I explained to the procurators the role and policy of the prosecuting authority of the SAR, and emphasised the importance we as prosecutors attach to upholding the rule of law. There is a keen interest in the Mainland in our system of criminal justice, and I took the opportunity to tell the procurators of the principles and practices which we apply and how our common law system operates.
That apart, our counsel participated in a mock jury trial in January 1999 in Beijing. Last year we briefed 9 visiting delegations from the Mainland on the operation of the criminal justice system of Hong Kong and gave them our publications. These exchanges were mutually beneficial. There can be no doubt that Mainland procurators and legal officials have acquired a better understanding of our prosecutorial system, and we of theirs. There can be no doubt that the 'One Country, Two Systems' concept is strengthened if prosecutors on each side of the border understand how the different prosecutorial systems operate.
Standards of prosecutors/A continuing commitment
Prosecutors must be properly trained. I believe that this involves not just qualification as a prosecutor, but a continuing process of legal education. Throughout 1999, therefore, we continued to place great importance upon training programmes for Government Counsel, for Court Prosecutors and for departmental prosecutors. We arranged :
* 24 seminars and lectures for Government Counsel to enhance their advocacy and professional knowledge;
* 2 twelve-week Criminal Advocacy Courses for newly recruited counsel and legal trainees - the courses included lectures and practical experience of prosecuting in the magistracies;
* 35 in-house seminars/lectures on criminal law and advocacy and refresher courses for 113 court prosecutors;
* For 8 prosecutors to attend two Middle Temple Advocacy courses in London to acquire better advocacy skills;
* For 25 prosecutors to attend 9 legal study courses in the Mainland;
* For prosecutors to attend 14 international conferences to learn of the latest legal developments elsewhere which can assist us in Hong Kong, to promote the image of the SAR, and to advise others of the continuity of the rule of law.
These training programmes have proved of immense value and have raised standards to a level of which we can be proud. A full programme is in place for 2000.
The Prosecutions Division also made a comprehensive contribution to the raising of prosecutorial standards in other areas of government. In 1999, we organised a record 197 training sessions for law enforcement personnel from other government departments.
Chinese language programme
Throughout 1999 the use of the Chinese language in criminal proceedings continued to assume greater importance. We therefore organised 24 Chinese language seminars and workshops : these included workshops on the drafting of court documents in Chinese; mock trials in Chinese; mock appeals in Chinese.
We also sent 28 counsel and para-legal staff to workshops on written Chinese organised by the Civil Service Training and Development Institute.
This training enabled prosecutors to meet the challenges posed by a bilingual legal system. That was essential in view of the momentum that exists in this area, as the figures for the use of Chinese language in criminal proceedings in 1999 show :
* Court of Appeal : 12.8%
[The corresponding figure for 1998 was 10.52%, and for 1997 2.59%]
* Court of First Instance (Magistracy Appeals) : 41.22%
[The corresponding figure for 1998 was 36.22%, and for 1997 13.1%]
* Court of First Instance (Trials) : 12.02%
[The corresponding figure for 1998 was 10.4%, and for 1997 6.45%]
* District Court : 19.78%
[The corresponding figure for 1998 was 18.8% and for 1997 13.6%]
* Magistrates' Court : 70.36%
[The corresponding figures for 1998 were 69%, and for 1997 63%]
The intensive Chinese language training programme which we have initiated will proceed into 2000, and we will continue to play a full role in this area. This is as it should be. The practice is that if an accused indicates that he or she wishes to have the case heard in Chinese and the court approves of such a course, the prosecution will prepare all court documents in Chinese. We expect the number of appeals to be heard in Chinese to increase as the Court of Appeal has said that unless there are good reasons to the contrary, an appeal may need to be heard in Chinese if the trial was in Chinese.
In 1999, 12,974 advices were given in criminal cases by prosecutors whereas in 1998, 13,675 advices were given. In 1999 there were a total of 293,354 new prosecutions in the courts as compared to 340,472 in 1998. It is remarkable that out of 12,974 advices and 293,354 prosecutions, only a handful attracted criticism, particularly so given the inherently controversial nature of prosecutorial decisions. That must be an encouraging sign.
In 1999, Government Counsel attended 2,265 court days in the Court of First Instance. That compared with 2,948 court days in 1998. In the District Court, the figures for 1999 and 1998 were 1,339 and 1,252 respectively.
Our Court Prosecutors prosecuted a total of 237,044 matters in 1999 in the Magistrates' Courts. That compared with 280,414 matters in 1998. We handled most criminal appeals : in 1999, a total of 746 appeals were determined by the Court of Appeal, of which 325 (43.57%) were dismissed, 84 (11.26%) were allowed and 337 (45.17%) were abandoned. In 1998, 827 appeals were determined, of which a total of 375.5 (45.41%) were dismissed, 103.5 (12.51%) were allowed and 348 (42.08%) were abandoned. During 1998 and 1999, a total of 1,173 and 1,328 magistracy appeals were respectively concluded in the Court of First Instance. In 1999, 257 magistracy appeals (19.35%) were allowed, 632 (47.59%) were dismissed and 439 (33.06%) were abandoned whereas in 1998, 203.5 (17.35%) were allowed, 531.5 (45.31%) were dismissed and 438 (37.34%) were abandoned.
Our belief in the importance of assisting the legal profession was reflected in the briefing out of about one-third of our work. It is good for the private sector to understand more of prosecution work. Thus, 365 barristers appear on our fiat lists, and, in addition, we are happy that more solicitors put their names forward for inclusion in our fiat lists : in 1998, we only had 17 prosecuting solicitors but by 1999, that had risen to 32.
(i) Court of First Instance : 55 cases were briefed out accounting for 491 court days. This may be compared with 493 cases prosecuted by Government Counsel, and accounting for 2,265 court days. The percentage of briefing out to private lawyers was 10.04%;
(ii) District Court : 564 cases were briefed out, accounting for 2,449 court days. This may be compared with 807 cases prosecuted by Government Counsel, and accounting for 1,339 court days. The percentage of briefing out to private lawyers was 41.14%;
(iii) Magistrates' Court : 151 cases were briefed out accounting for 391 court days. This may be compared with 328 cases prosecuted by Government Counsel, and accounting for 605 court days. The percentage of briefing out rate to private lawyers was 31.52%.
OVERALL PERCENTAGE OF BRIEFING OUT : 32.11% [Compared to 33.65% in 1998]
In terms of our caseload, we met the challenges we faced as crime trends developed. Thus :
(1) In 1999, the Prosecutions Division gave 12,974 advices. That was a slight decrease of 5.4% over the 1998 figure of 13,675, of which 10,078 were written advices. In 1997, the figure was 8,879;
(2) On 1 January 2000 the caseload of ICAC cases (all cases) was 1,686, as compared to 1,506 ICAC cases (all cases) on 1 January 1999 - an increase of 12%;
(3) In 1999 there was an increase of 32% in the number of persons prosecuted by the ICAC as compared to 1998; [up from 382 to 504]
(4) In 1999 there was an increase of 24.7% in the number of fraud and forgery cases as compared to 1998; [up from 3,484 to 4,344]
(5) In 1999, there was an increase of 7% in the number of violent crime cases as compared to 1998; [up from 14,682 to 15,705]
(6) In 1999, there was an increase of 5.1% in the number of burglary, theft and handling stolen goods cases, as compared to 1998; [up from 36,415 to 38,284]
(7) In 1999, there was a decrease of 19.2% in the number of serious narcotics cases as compared to 1998; [down from 2,778 to 2,246]
(8) Overall crime figure in 1999 rose to 76,771 cases, compared with 71,962 cases in 1998 - an increase of 6.7%.
The increase in overall crime rates served to highlight the need for the Prosecutions Division to maintain itself in a state of high alert.
Court of Final Appeal
After a quiet start, the work of the Court of Final Appeal ('CFA') in criminal cases has mushroomed. That, in turn, placed great strain upon the Prosecutions Division. The volume of cases we processed and conducted in 1998/1999 greatly exceeded the number that used to proceed to the Privy Council. These figures demonstrate the position :
In 1995 there were 8 criminal cases from Hong Kong to the Privy Council. In 1996 the figure was 23. In the first six months of 1997 the figure was 9. Grand total for 21/2 years : 40.
In comparison :
Between July 1997 and December 1999, 121 CFA and CFA-related criminal cases were dealt with. A further 16 cases were in the pipeline as at 1 January 2000.
The creation by the Legislative Council of a new post of Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions on 15 March 1999 to oversee CFA cases, in particular, and appeal cases, in general, has greatly facilitated our capacity to provide a dedicated and efficient team to handle all appellate matters throughout the higher courts.
Conviction rates for 1999
Of cases which proceeded to court, conviction rates were as follows:
Court of First Instance : 90.4% [1998 : 80.6%]
District Court : 87.6% [1998 : 83.7%]
Magistrates' Court : 75.8% [1998 : 73.4%]
I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work of the Court Prosecutors in the Magistrates' Courts. They enjoy the unreserved support of this Department, both now and for the future, and they deserve the thanks of the community for a job well done. At a time when some have questioned the role of the Court Prosecutors, I reiterate that the Court Prosecutors provide a cost-effective and efficient means of prosecution. Their standards are exceptionally high and they provide an effective and dedicated band of prosecutors. I must add that I am satisfied that the interests of the public are well-served by the work of the Court Prosecutors. The contribution they make to the smooth and successful operation of our system of criminal justice at the summary level is little short of profound.
In 1999, we had 113 Court Prosecutors. Most of them, 77%, are degree holders. It is a source of pride to me that 10 have been admitted as barristers; 21 have obtained law degrees; while 22 others are studying for law degrees; 56 have obtained degrees in other disciplines. These figures demonstrate the commitment of Court Prosecutors to enhanced standards in the magistracies. In recent times 11 Court Prosecutors have gone on to become Government Counsel and that speaks the volumes about the standing of the grade. On 25 January 1999, the management and supervision of the grade was strengthened when, with Legislative Council approval, the post of Chief Court Prosecutor was created.
That the Court Prosecutors provide value for money is demonstrated by the following comparison, based on the 15,230 court days of the grade in 1999 :
Total Full Annual Staff Cost at
Mid-point for 102 Court
Prosecutors for court duties
(i.e. 84 Court Prosecutors and
18 Senior Court Prosecutors II) : $54,274,608
Cost of briefing private lawyers
to replace Court Prosecutors : $86,354,100
[Calculated on basis of existing rate of $5,670 per day for a lawyer to substitute for a Court Prosecutor : $5,670 x 15,230 = $86,354,100 : an increase of $32,079,492, or 59%]
Significant areas of criminal activity are now computer and Internet based. Not only are such crimes transnational in nature, but they are often sophisticated and secret. There has of late been a surge in computer crime. In 1999, there was an increase of 832% in the number of computer crime cases as compared to 1998 [up from 34 to 317]. Things will get worse before they get better.
To deal with cyber crime, we created the Computer Crime Team ('CCT') in November 1999, to provide the Division, the law enforcement agencies, and our international counterparts with a cadre of expert and trained prosecutors. In the face of this massive and formidable challenge, our CCT will be determined, resourceful and prepared. It will be pro-active. It will not simply respond to events.
As at 31 December 1999, the Prosecutions Division had a total of 448 staff, of whom 104 were Government Counsel, 113 were Court Prosecutors, 23 were law clerks and 208 were administrative support staff. Throughout 1999, we endeavoured at all times to discharge our duties to the highest standard. We made the most of the resources available to us. That the year 2000, millennium year, finds the Prosecutions Division in such good shape is a tribute to each and every member of it. That the Division is in such fine fettle is, I believe, good for the Department of Justice, good for Hong Kong, and good for the rule of law.
End/Thursday, March 30, 2000