Following is the statement by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. Grenville Cross, SC at the media session to release the Yearly Review of the Prosecutions Division 2001 today (April 4):
For the Prosecutions Division, 2001 was an eventful year. We contributed much in many areas at the local, regional and international levels. It was a year of solid achievement. Throughout the year, we ensured that prosecutions were conducted fairly and effectively, free from any interference. We worked closely with fellow modernisers to improve the system of criminal justice. When we dealt with the public we were transparent and understanding.
As a modern prosecuting authority, we believe that it is vital for the community to understand how we operate and what we do. So it is that through this, the fourth Yearly Review of the Prosecutions Division, we explain our position in society. We are committed to making a full account of ourselves in this way to the public we serve. The days when prosecutors could hide in the shade have long since gone. The momentum which has developed since 1997 towards transparency is irreversible. This type of openness and accountability is in the interests of prosecutors, for the better the community understands how we operate the more forthcoming will be levels of public acceptance and appreciation.
In January 2001, the Prosecutions Division joined the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP), as its 75th organisational member. This was a tribute to all the Division had accomplished since 1997. The IAP is the first and only world organisation of prosecutors. Membership gave us a direct role in the affairs of the IAP. It also promoted the image of Hong Kong amongst the prosecutors of the world.
Liaison among prosecutors is vital. All are faced with new and more sophisticated types of crime. Cooperation must exist if there is to be any real hope of combating transnational and cross-border crime. As patterns of crime develop, prosecutors must be adequately resourced, fully trained and efficiently deployed. Through cooperation with our counterparts in Asia and elsewhere we recognise the importance of contributing to the effective investigation of crime and the prosecution of offenders. When necessary, existing statutory schemes for the combat of crime must be strengthened in the interests of all.
Organised criminal groups pose serious challenges to societies everywhere. Whether involved in drug trafficking, money laundering, people smuggling or outright terrorism, they operate in a sophisticated way without regard to national frontiers. Profits of crime are vast. As prosecutors, our duty is to help to make the case for change, and to explain how the criminal law needs to be adjusted to meet the threats posed by organised transnational crime to our way of life.
As prosecutors we must assist law enforcers to bring to justice those involved in serious crime. We must prosecute the organised criminals, seize their assets and disrupt their operations. Our training programme in 2002 will recognise the threats posed by complex and transnational crime. Comprehensive training arrangements are being made for prosecutors who specialise in technology crime, copyright crime, corruption, fraud and asset recovery. Where necessary, our specialist teams will be strengthened through redeployment. Our role in the combat of organised crime will be central to our planning.
From the outset, on 1 January 2001, the Division actively contributed to the objectives of the International Association of Prosecutors. These included the effective combat of crime, the exchange of information and expertise, the enhancement of prosecution standards, and the promotion of transparency in the conduct of public prosecutions. The IAP involved the Division in its work :
(1) The Division's Prosecution Policy Coordinator on Computer Crime became the representative of Asia on the IAP Committee which is preparing the 'Guide to Conducting Internet Investigations'. That Guide will be used by prosecutors and investigators everywhere in criminal cases involving the Internet;
(2) The Division helped the IAP to produce its 'Recommendations on Combating Corruption in Public Administration'. These Recommendations recognise the need for prosecutors worldwide to address the challenge posed by institutionalised corruption;
(3) The Division organised the Asia/Pacific Regional Forum of the IAP, which was held in September in Sydney, Australia. The theme we chose for the Forum was the transparency and accountability of the public prosecutor in the 21st century. We chaired the Forum, and regional prosecutors to participate came from jurisdictions which included Australia, Japan, Macao, Thailand, Singapore, Korea, New Zealand and Bangladesh. Our message to the Forum was that the modern prosecutor needs to be as open with the public as is consistent with the duty to protect the rights of suspects, of victims and their families, and that message was well received. A consensus emerged that it was important for the work of public prosecutors to be understood and accepted by the communities they served.
Contacts with the Mainland and Macao
Throughout 2001, exchanges with legal officials from elsewhere in China featured prominently on our agenda. These contacts were valuable and they engendered a better understanding of the legal systems that co-exist in different parts of the country. We crystallised thinking in areas of common interest to prosecutors and law enforcers, and all accepted that to be successful systems of criminal justice need to be underpinned by the rule of law.
In our dealings with legal personnel from elsewhere in China, our approach was one of constructive engagement. We briefed 14 Mainland delegations on our work as prosecutors and on Hong Kong's criminal justice system. In our trips to the Mainland and Macao and in our speeches we shared ideas and pooled experiences with our counterparts in a way that contributed to the common good. Our publications were widely circulated throughout China and positively received. We assisted the Supreme People's Prosecution Service in its conference programme in Guangzhou, and facilitated training schemes in the Mainland when called upon. Our prosecutors participated in the mock trials which were held in Shenzhen and Shanghai in May and June.
Prosecutors throughout China made common cause in 2001 in many areas. Ideas were exchanged on the effective combat of crime, including corruption, narcotics, money laundering, fraud and cross-border offending. Improved methods of prosecution were examined. Prosecutors from Hong Kong, Mainland China and Macao contributed to the work of the International Association of Prosecutors. In our dealings with our counterparts the recurrent themes were the need to cooperate, to modernise and to advance the rule of law.
In 2001 we stressed our regional position. Closer links with prosecutors throughout southern China were fostered. In April and June we sent prosecutors to discuss prosecutorial issues with the Zhuhai People's Prosecution Service. Links were developed with legal officials from Guangdong, Macao, Shenzhen and Dongguan. In May, a unique summit was held in Macao between the chief prosecutors of Guangdong, Macao and Hong Kong. Regional prosecutors were united at that summit in their commitment to effective and improved systems of criminal justice. The importance of cross-border understanding to the maintenance of the rule of law in southern China cannot be over-estimated. Although our legal systems may differ, the problems confronting our various jurisdictions in the area of effective law enforcement are often the same.
Contacts with the community were maintained at all levels in 2001. Contact with the public. Contact with the victims of crime. Contact with the legal profession. Contact with law enforcers. All of this reflected our belief that a modern prosecution service must be firmly rooted in the community it serves.
Contact with the public and those caught up in the criminal justice system involved openness and sensitivity on our part. Prosecution decisions were discussed with citizens and concerned groups. The progress of prosecutions was explained to those involved in cases. We made every effort to ensure that victims and their families and witnesses felt themselves to be respected by the prosecution process.
Contact with the legal profession saw prosecutors sharing their training programmes and publications, and providing the profession and the law faculties of Hong Kong University and City University with speakers and examiners. All benefited after we agreed to place our Criminal Appeals Bulletin on the departmental web site. Prosecutors were active in the Criminal Court Users Committee, the Committee on a Bilingual Legal System, the Law Reform Commission, the Judicial Studies Board and the Criminal Procedure Rules Committee.
Contact with law enforcement agencies necessitated liaison at the policy and case levels. We examined the effective combat of crime and improved modes of case presentation in our periodic meetings with the Director of Crime and Security of the Hong Kong Police and the Director of Operations of the ICAC. Future strategy was also planned.
Public Prosecutions: Prosecution Policy
Article 63 of the Basic Law provides that the Department of Justice shall control criminal prosecutions, free from any interference. The principle of prosecutorial independence is central to the rule of the prosecutor in society. We must take the decisions which, in the cold light of day, are considered appropriate. Never must we allow our judgment in any particular case to be overborne by pressure or criticism from any quarter, no matter how great or how shrill.
Throughout the year, we have upheld and promoted the prosecutorial values of the common law world. Our mission throughout 2001 was a fundamental one. It was to provide a just and independent prosecution service. Offenders were firmly and fairly prosecuted. Advice was competently and impartially given. Prosecutorial values were asserted wherever necessary. We tolerated no interference in our processes.
Fairness is the benchmark by which we, as prosecutors, expect to be judged. Fairness requires the prosecutor to protect the rights of the suspect, just as he safeguards those of the accused. All forms of extra-judicial trial are to be avoided. Issues of guilt or innocence are to be resolved by courts of law, not by public debate. It is only in the court that the suspect has the right to a fair trial in accordance with the rules of criminal justice. Those suspected of crime have inalienable rights, whether prosecuted or not.
The most significant of our prosecution values throughout 2001 was fearlessness. We had daily to make decisions, both to prosecute and not to prosecute, which might have been controversial. But we always did that which we believed to be just. We recognised that the rule of law is not about winning popularity contests, but about doing what is right.
Criminal Justice Initiatives in 2001
In 2001, the Division implemented a series of important criminal justice initiatives through its working groups:
* One working group created a set of standard forms and precedents for use in criminal proceedings in the Court of Final Appeal;
* A second working group produced a Prosecution Manual to assist prosecutors and law enforcers in their duties;
* A third working group produced guidance upon an expanded role for Victim Impact Statements in criminal cases;
* A fourth working group produced guidance for prosecutors on the best use to be made of the increased sentencing provisions in the Organised and Serious Crimes Ordinance;
* A fifth working group began preparing a new prosecution policy booklet which will be issued in 2002 and will make the decision making process even more understandable to the people of Hong Kong.
Throughout the year the Division was proactive in its pursuit of an improved legal system.
Victims of Crime
Since our prosecutors must be sensitive to the needs of victims, as well as to those of witnesses, we kept them fully abreast in 2001 of the progress of cases. At court we protected their position, explained what was happening and provided comfort when necessary. At all stages of the decision making process, we gave full weight to the interests of the victim.
Throughout the year the dedicated prosecutors of our Vulnerable Witness Team (VWT) advised on cases involving the most vulnerable of witnesses and conducted related prosecutions. The VWT applied the legislation which provides for the video recording of evidence and the use of live TV links in respect of children, the mentally handicapped and witnesses in fear. Such techniques were used by the VWT in cases which involved sexual and physical abuse and cruelty.
In 2001, our VWT was increased to 16 prosecutors. This reflected our commitment and our concern for the victims of crime and the most vulnerable in society. The VWT lectured prosecutors, social workers and non-governmental organisations on the most effective and most humane methods of handling vulnerable witnesses at trial and pre-trial. Organisations assisted by the VWT included Against Child Abuse, the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women, and Rain Lily, its crisis centre, and the Working Group on the Victim Support Scheme. Teams members also joined the Working Group on Combating Violence.
At court, our prosecutors explained their role to victims. When delays arose, victims were alerted. To the extent that this was possible, prosecutors informed courts of the circumstances and views of victims. It was vital that the interests of the victim did not go by default.
Our work in 2001 reflected our belief that public confidence is promoted if the interests of victims are given a central role in the decision making process. We believe that the manner in which the system treats its victims is a measure not only of its efficacy but also of its humanity. Thus, when victims queried prosecution decisions, we responded with sensitivity and courtesy. In 2001, 293 letters were written to victims; 80 responded by telephone or in writing, and, in consequence, 74 replies were provided to victims. Our approach reflected our belief that if those who commit offences are to be prosecuted, victims must be willing to report offences and to testify at court. They must know that they will be treated with respect and understanding by the criminal justice system.
Chinese Language Programme
Throughout 2001, we continued to promote the use of the Chinese language in criminal proceedings. We therefore organised 15 Chinese language workshops. The Glossary of Legal Terms for Criminal Proceedings, which we introduced in 1998, now contains 1170 terms, and this has contributed to the effective presentation at court of legal submissions in Chinese. Our prosecutors are better equipped than ever before to meet the challenges posed by a bilingual legal system. This was important, as the figures for the use of Chinese language in criminal proceedings in 2001 show:
In 2001, there were 237,886 new prosecutions in the courts as compared to 262,564 in 2000. In 2001, 15,737 advices were given by prosecutors in criminal cases, as compared to 15,545 advices in 2000.
In 2001, Government Counsel attended 1,604 court days in the Court of First Instance. That compared with 1,733.5 court days in 2000. In the District Court, the figures for 2001 and 2000, were, respectively, 872.55 and 1,066 court days. In the Magistrates Courts, the figures for 2001 and 2000 were, respectively, 691.5 and 695 court days.
Our Court Prosecutors prosecuted a total of 210,422 cases in 2001 in the Magistrates Courts. That compared with 214,805 cases in 2000.
Aspects of Work
We confronted various types of criminality in 2001:
(1) Corruption : In 2001, there were 4,476 corruption reports, and 245 reports of electoral misconduct. As regards public sector corruption, we prosecuted 198 persons and gave the ICAC 384 written advices. As regards private sector corruption, we prosecuted 337 persons and gave the ICAC 437 written advices.
(2) Technology crime: In 2001, there were 334 reported cases of every type of computer crime. Online fraud cases rose by 20%. Our Computer Crime Team handled cases which involved hacking, copyright infringement, unlawful gambling, publishing obscene articles, fraud and theft.
(3) Copyright crime: In 2001, 1,627 cases were prosecuted involving offences contrary to the Copyright Ordinance, and 833 persons were imprisoned.
(4) Narcotics crime: In 2001, we prosecuted manufacturers, distributors and possessors of dangerous drugs. In the High Court and the Court of First Instance, 515 people were prosecuted for the more serious narcotics offences. We remained most concerned at the use of psychotropic or 'designer drugs' by young people. Existing guidelines for ecstasy are dated, and there are no guidelines for ketamine or LSD. There is a need for deterrent sentencing to combat the increase in psychotropic drugs. In 2001, prosecutors and police liaised to ensure that courts were made fully aware of the dimensions of the problem. Reviews of sentence deemed to be unduly lenient were initiated in 12 drugs cases in the Magistrates Courts, 7 of which succeeded. In 2001, $11.43 million of the proceeds from the illicit trade in drugs was ordered to be confiscated and $4.08 million was restrained under the Drug Trafficking (Recovery of Proceeds) Ordinance.
(5) Money laundering : 38 people were prosecuted for money laundering offences under the Organised and Serious Crime Ordinance, and $5.18 million in crime proceeds was ordered to be confiscated. A further $894.18 million was restrained pending court proceedings.
(6) Commercial crime: In 2001, there were 79 serious fraud cases investigated, and 76 serious fraud cases prosecuted - each such case involved losses of at least $5 million. Reported losses in serious fraud complaints amounted in 2001 to $1,264.8 million.
Court of Final Appeal (CFA)
The work of the CFA in criminal cases continued to challenge our resources in 2001. The number of cases we processed and conducted in 1997/2001 far exceed the number that proceeded to the Privy Council prior to reunification. Thus
From January 1993 to June 1997, (41/2 years), there were 62 criminal cases which went from Hong Kong to the Privy Council.
Between July 1997 and December 2001 (41/2 years), 280 CFA and CFA-related cases were dealt with - an increase of 352%.
Conviction Rates for 2001
The conviction rates for 2001, compared with 2000, were:
Total no. of appeals concluded 1,432 1,464Briefing-out
In 2001, we briefed out a substantial proportion of cases to private lawyers to prosecute on our behalf. This demonstrated our belief that it is good for private lawyers to understand more of prosecution work. It showed as well our commitment to the promotion of a strong, experienced and independent Bar. The briefing-out statistics were:
(1) Court of First Instance: 76 cases were briefed out, accounting for 833 court days. This may be compared with 493 cases prosecuted by Government Counsel, and accounting for 1,604 court days. The percentage of cases briefed out to private lawyers was 13.36%, and 35.5% of court days;
(2) District Court: 538 cases were briefed out, accounting for 2,529.5 of court days. This may be compared with 753 cases prosecuted by Government Counsel, and accounting for 872.5 court days. The percentage of briefing out to private lawyers was 41.67%, and 74.35% of court days;
(3) Magistrates' Court: 179 cases were briefed out, accounting for 471.5 court days. This may be compared with 468 cases prosecuted by Government Counsel and 691.5 court days. The percentage of cases briefed out to private lawyers was 27.67%, and 40.54% of court days.
OVERALL PERCENTAGE OF BRIEFING OUT : 31.36% of cases, and 55.08% of court days. [Compared to 27.56% of cases, and 48.86% of court days, in 2000.]
Our Court Prosecutors continued to do magnificent work in 2001 at the summary level. They are a corps of dedicated quasi-legal professionals, and they ensured the smooth conduct of prosecutions in the nine Magistrates Courts of Hong Kong. In the 25 years since they were introduced, the Court Prosecutors have contributed significantly to an effective and professional system of justice at the summary level. The eighteenth batch of Court Prosecutors was recently recruited, and they began their course of 9 months training on 2 April 2002.
In 2001, a total of 210,422 cases, involving 14,537 court days, were prosecuted by our Court Prosecutors. That compared with 214,805 such cases in 2000.
The qualifications of our Court Prosecutors are high, and getting higher. Out of a total of 104 Court Prosecutors, 81, or 78%, are degree holders, of whom 26 hold Law degrees : 9 are admitted as barristers; 1 holds PCLL; 3 are studying for PCLL; 16 others are studying for law degrees. In recent years, 17 Court Prosecutors have been appointed as Government Counsel. Also, 14 Court Prosecutors have been appointed as Magistrates. These figures demonstrate the standing, quality and success of the grade.
Whereas in 1977 the Court Prosecutors only prosecuted police cases, they now, in 2002, prosecute cases investigated by various bodies, including:
* Hong Kong Police
* Customs and Excise Department
* Independent Commission Against Corruption
* Leisure and Cultural Services Department
* Department of Health
* Education Department
* Mandatory Provident Fund Schemes Authority
The average cost per court day of prosecutions conducted by a Court Prosecutor of $3,045 compares favourably with the fees for counsel prosecuting on general fiat of $5,670 per court day. Were all the 14,537 court days conducted by Court Prosecutors in 2001 to be briefed out to private counsel, it would cost about $82 million, which is 86%, or $38 million, more than the $44 million cost of the Court Prosecutors. So in addition to providing the community with the best possible prosecution service at the summary level, it is a bonus that the Court Prosecutor system comes at a reasonable cost.
The year 2001 was, in many ways, the most successful that the Prosecutions Division has enjoyed since reunification. That the Division evolved in a just and progressive way was a source of pride to us all. We discharged our duties to the highest of standards. Resources were effectively deployed. Improved productivity was achieved. At each turn we were sensitive to the needs of society. We played a full and positive role at the local, regional and international levels. Our work was acclaimed by prosecutors throughout the world.
Mr. Nicholas Cowdery QC, President of the International Association of Prosecutors, visited Hong Kong last month. In his address to prosecutors on 4 March 2002, he said that the Prosecutions Division was now 'very highly regarded internationally', and that the Division had done 'brilliantly' since 1997. Those remarks from the leader of the world's prosecutors are a source of encouragement to our prosecutors, and they are a recognition of our progress since 1997.
The success of the Division in 2001 was achieved with the support of the Secretary for Justice, Ms. Elsie Leung. Her backing was, at all times, as steadfast as it was comprehensive. Her endorsement of our just and independent decision making, of our international role, of our commitment to transparency and of our reforming initiatives was total. She encouraged us in all we did and defended our position where necessary. I take this opportunity to thank Ms. Leung for her leadership, support and guidance.
End/Thursday, April 4, 2002