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 2002 today (April 3):
As modern prosecutors, we are committed to transparency in the area of public prosecutions. We recognise that the public have a keen interest in all we do, and that it is our duty to account. We believe also that if we explain how we operate in a public way this will strengthen our position in society. Prosecutors in the 21st century must be open and frank with the communities they serve.
Through this, the fifth Yearly Review of the Prosecutions Division, we describe the activities of a modern prosecution service which worked imaginatively in all areas in 2002 to improve itself, to modernise itself and to explain itself. We responded positively throughout the year to new challenges, and we liaised closely with others in Hong Kong and elsewhere to develop strategies to combat all types of crime. In the process of decision making we applied prosecution policy firmly and impartially at all times.
In 2002, the Division approached its challenges as opportunities. Specialised teams for the prosecution of particular crimes were strengthened through training and redeployment. Enhanced liaison with other jurisdictions was pursued. The means of better servicing our community were critically examined. Solid progress was made on various fronts. Prosecution policy guidelines were updated and expanded. A Strategic Plan for the future of the Division was put in place. At the same time, our core business remained the effective prosecution of crime.
Public Prosecutions in 2002
At times of controversy in 2002, we kept our nerve. We refused to allow anyone to deflect us from our commitment to uphold the rule of law and to apply proper legal standards. When there were demands to prosecute or not to prosecute in particular cases, we asserted our independence and did what we believed to be just. At all times we applied our prosecution policy in a manner which was fair and measured. A proper disposal of cases was sought, no matter what.
Throughout 2002, our prosecutors exercised an independent discretion in the discharge of their duties, and acted within the parameters of an established and announced prosecution policy. We made clear that those who broke our laws were liable to prosecution, irrespective of who they were, what movement they belonged to or where they came from. At the same time, we emphasised that we were prosecutors and not persecutors, and that if there were strong reasons not to prosecute we would not do so because that would not be right. We equally applied strict legal criteria to the issue of whether or not to challenge sentences imposed by the courts in particular cases, and we acted at all times in accordance with our perception of where the interests of justice truly lay.
Prosecution Policy and Practice
In October 2002, we issued new prosecution policy guidelines. The production of The Statement of Prosecution Policy and Practice was designed to promote consistency as well as openness in respect of public prosecutions. The Statement explains the standards, policies and practices of the public prosecutor in the 21st century. It is a thoroughly modern document which, at the same time, emphasises our common law roots and traditions. The Statement emphasises our independence as prosecutors, and it has been circulated throughout Hong Kong, elsewhere in China and to other parts of the world. The Statement emphasises our credentials as a world-class prosecuting authority.
The Strategic Plan 2002-2007
In September 2002, we submitted to the Secretary for Justice the Strategic Plan of the Prosecutions Division for 2002 to 2007. This was both visionary and practical. Its purpose was to identify the priorities and targets which the Division has set for itself over the next five years, and to indicate how these would be achieved. A modern prosecution service is envisaged, working decisively in all areas to enhance the quality of criminal justice. The Strategic Plan requires :
* the provision of a professional, effective and focused system of public prosecutions
* the promotion of public confidence by making prosecution policy and practice as understandable as possible
* the pursuit of constructive liaison with our partners in the criminal justice system and with our counterparts in other jurisdictions.
The Strategic Plan defines the values of our prosecutors. These include the notions of cooperation, impartiality, integrity, management excellence, professionalism, sensitivity, service and thoroughness. The goals of the Division were defined as including :
* the fair and independent making of decisions
* the timely and accurate giving of advices
* the firm and fair prosecution of offenders
* the effective and concerted combat of crime
* the modern and efficient operation of the prosecution service.
The notion of service to the public informed our thinking in the drafting of the Strategic Plan.
Hong Kong is committed to international efforts to combat terrorism. The aim of terrorists is the destruction of societies and for that they need money. All such activity requires to be clamped down upon by prosecutors and law enforcers, and the mechanisms for achieving this must be refined, improved and implemented by prosecuting authorities everywhere. Laws against terrorism depend ultimately for their success upon prosecutors who are in a position to apply them with diligence and resourcefulness.
Following the enactment in 2002 of the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Ordinance and the United Nations Sanctions (Afghanistan) Regulations, we enhanced our capacity to provide appropriate advice to others in government, to liaise with prosecutors elsewhere, and to prosecute any cases of terrorism which might arise. We appointed a Prosecution Policy Coordinator on Anti-Terrorism to provide advice, liaison and in-house expertise as required. At the same time, we restructured our Organised Crime Team to accommodate this new area of prosecutorial responsibility.
As prosecutors we play a role in ensuring that Hong Kong is not used as a channel for terrorist finance. Hong Kong's new legislation gives effect to UNSCR 1373 and the recommendations to combat terrorists assets. Our Asset Recovery Unit has now assumed direct responsibility for taking forward measures for the forfeiture of any terrorists assets located in Hong Kong. In this area we are determined to marshal our resources to best advantage.
Key Areas of Prosecution Responsibility
Our specialist teams of prosecutors were heavily engaged in vital areas in 2002. These included :
(1) Corruption : In 2002, there were 4 371 corruption reports to the ICAC. We prosecuted 604 persons for corruption and related offences, and provided 858 advices to the ICAC. Calculated on the number of cases, we secured convictions in 83% of corruption cases.
(2) Computer Crime : In 2002, there were 272 reported cases of every type of computer crime. We prosecuted 12 cases of technology crime, and 12 persons were convicted. Our Computer Crime Team provided 45 advices to law enforcers.
(3) Copyright Crime : In 2002, 1 376 cases were prosecuted involving criminal violations of the Copyright Ordinance, and 550 persons were imprisoned. Our Copyright Crime Team provided 151 advices to law enforcers.
(4) Customs Offences : In 2002, our prosecutors advised the Customs and Excise Department on offences involving smuggling, licensing breaches, origin frauds and excise duty evasion. We gave 670 advices to Customs and prosecuted 263 cases, which resulted in the convictions of 196 persons and 69 companies.
(5) Narcotics : In 2002, the effective prosecution of those who dealt in any way in dangerous drugs was one of our priorities. In November, a Dutch national was convicted of offences of trafficking in almost 250 000 tablets of ecstasy, with a street value of between $32 million and $72 million. This was the largest such seizure to have been made in Hong Kong, and the defendant received 13 years and 4 months' imprisonment. Ecstasy consumption patterns were directly affected.
In total, we prosecuted 400 persons in 2002 in the Court of First Instance and the District Court for the more serious narcotics offences of importing, manufacturing or distributing dangerous drugs. A further 5 724 cases of unlawful possession of dangerous drugs were prosecuted.
In 2002, $1.75 million of the proceeds from the illicit trade in drugs was ordered to be confiscated and $10.1 million was restrained under the Drug Trafficking (Recovery of Proceeds) Ordinance.
(6) Money Laundering : In 2002, 31 persons were prosecuted for money laundering offences under the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance, and $11.5 million in crime proceeds was ordered to be confiscated. A further $197.32 million was restrained pending court proceedings.
(7) Commercial Crime : In 2002, there were 101 serious fraud cases investigated - each such case involved losses of at least $5 million - and 96 persons were prosecuted for serious fraud offences. Reported losses in serious fraud complaints amounted in 2002 to $753 million.
(8) Triad and Organized Crime : In 2002, we prosecuted over 800 persons for triad society offences. Prosecutors made 63 applications for enhanced sentences for those convicted of offences shown to be organizd crimes under the Organized and Serious Crimes Ordinance.
We prosecuted 23 persons accused of involvement in the arson attack at Immigration Tower that resulted in the deaths of a senior immigration officer and an abode seeker, and injuries to many others. After police in May arrested over 207 persons in Mongkok after an investigation into syndicated vice activity and people smuggling codenamed 'Operation Firelily', we advised on the criminal liability of the suspects and on the seizure of assets worth $86 million. Related action in Guangdong Province saw the arrest of 65 persons allegedly involved in the supply of prostitutes to Hong Kong.
In 2002, there were 213 467 new prosecutions in the courts as compared to 234 649 in 2001. In 2002, 16 579 advices were given by prosecutors in criminal cases, as compared to 15 737 advices in 2001.
In 2002, Government Counsel attended 1 496.5 court days in the Court of First Instance. That compared with 1,604 court days in 2001. In the District Court, the figures for 2002 and 2001, were, respectively, 838 and 872.5 court days. In the Magistrates Courts, the figures for 2002 and 2001 were, respectively, 806.5 and 691.5 court days.
Our Court Prosecutors prosecuted a total of 190 377 cases in 2002 in the Magistrates Courts, involving 14 015 court days. That compared with 210 422 cases in 2001, involving 14 537 court days.
Conviction RatesCourt of Final Appeal (CFA)
The work of the CFA in criminal cases in 2002 continued to test our resources. The number of cases processed and conducted in 1997/2002 far exceeded the number that proceeded to the Privy Council prior to reunification. Thus :
From January 1992 to June 1997, (51/2 years), there were 76 criminal cases which went from Hong Kong to the Privy Council.
In comparison :
Between July 1997 and December 2002 (51/2 years), 352 CFA and CFA-related cases were dealt with - an increase of 363%.
Briefing Out Cases
In 2002, we continued to brief out a proportion of prosecutions to the private sector. We believe that the involvement of private lawyers in prosecution work is beneficial as a matter of policy. It also makes sense in practical terms. The briefing out statistics were :
(1) Court of First Instance : 68 cases were briefed out, accounting for 1 069 court days. This may be compared with 508 cases prosecuted by Government Counsel, and accounting for 1 496.5 court days. The percentage of cases briefed out to private lawyers was 11.81%, and 41.67% of court days;
(2) District Court : 682 cases were briefed out, accounting for 2 757.5 court days. This may be compared with 932 cases prosecuted by Government Counsel, and accounting for 838 court days. The percentage of cases briefed out to private lawyers was 42.26%, and 76.69% of court days;
(3) Magistrates Court : 225 cases were briefed out, accounting for 708.5 court days. This may be compared with 448 cases prosecuted by Government Counsel, and accounting for 806.5 court days. The percentage of cases briefed out to private lawyers was 33.43%, and 46.77% of court days.
OVERALL PERCENTAGE OF BRIEFING OUT : 34.06% of cases and 59.08% of court days. [Compared to 31.63% of cases, and 55.08% of court days, in 2001.]
In 2002, the Court Prosecutors as a grade celebrated their silver jubilee. In the 25 years since they were introduced in 1977, they have done much to uphold the rule of law in the Magistrates Courts. All of those concerned with the administration of criminal justice owe them a profound debt of gratitude. I take this opportunity to pay tribute to all they have achieved in the 25 years of their existence. Last year the eighteenth batch of Court Prosecutors graduated after a comprehensive training course of nine months, and they have now been warmly welcomed into our ranks.
Of the 109 Court Prosecutors in practice in 2002, 87, or 79.8% were degree holders, of whom 28 held law degrees : 8 were admitted as barristers; 4 held the PCLL; 3 were studying for PCLL; 17 were studying for law degrees. The qualifications as well as the standing of the Court Prosecutors have never been higher, and this is good news indeed for all of those concerned with criminal justice at the summary level.
The average cost per court day of prosecutions conducted by a Court Prosecutor of $2 999 compares favourably with the fees for counsel prosecuting on general fiat of $5 670 per court day. If all the 14 015 court days conducted by Court Prosecutors in 2002 were to be briefed out to private counsel, it would cost about $79.5 million, which is 89%, or $37.4 million, more than the $42 million cost of the Court Prosecutors. We are fortunate that in addition to providing a superb service in the Magistrates Courts, our Court Prosecutors are able to do so at a cost which is so reasonable. We are thus able to have the best of both worlds.
Chinese Language Programme
Of our 111 Government Counsel, 90 were bilingual in 2002, while all 109 of our Court Prosecutors were proficient in Chinese and English.
Throughout 2002, the wider use of the Chinese language in criminal proceedings was matched by our programme to enhance skills of our bilingual prosecutors. We organised 12 Chinese language workshops to develop the capacity of bilingual prosecutors to conduct cases in Chinese. The Glossary of Legal Terms for Criminal Proceedings, which was introduced in 1998, and which we regularly update, now contains 1 350 terms. Our Bilingual Court Documents Unit translated 7 697 English documents into Chinese, and 157 Chinese documents into English. The figures for the use of Chinese language in criminal proceedings in 2002 show :
2000 2001 2002International Cooperation
Prosecutors everywhere face unprecedented challenges. Transnational crime is better organised and more sophisticated than ever. New types of crime are proliferating. Throughout 2002 we promoted cooperation with the prosecutors of the world. The Division played its full part in the International Association of Prosecutors, which we joined as an organisational member in 2001.
At both the international and regional levels, the Division was able to contribute much in 2002. Our prosecutors were in demand in other places as experts in their specialised portfolios. Various jurisdictions sought our assistance in their training modules. Prosecutors contributed as well to global projects designed to combat serious crimes. The Division was both practical and innovative in its cooperation with others.
In March 2002, Mr. Nicholas Cowdery QC, President of the International Association of Prosecutors, visited Hong Kong, and in an address to our prosecutors he commended the international standing achieved by the Division.
Contacts with the Mainland and Macao
Throughout 2002, we promoted contacts with legal personnel from elsewhere in China. Ideas and publications were exchanged, and the development of legal systems was examined. This policy of constructive engagement produced mutual understanding and respect which was good for the one country, two systems concept.
Prosecutors from Hong Kong, the Mainland and Macao coordinated their activities within the International Association of Prosecutors. Different systems were critically considered in the interests of modernisation and more effective responses to crime. We participated in legal symposia in other parts of China, and contributed in May to the International Symposium on the Criminal Evidence Law of the PRC, in Beijing. Prosecutors from Hong Kong and other parts of China met to discuss issues of regional concern throughout the year. Important exchanges were held in April with prosecutors from Guangdong Province in Dongguan and Shenzhen. The need to build upon existing channels of cooperation between law enforcers was emphasised in all our discussions. When our prosecutors attended the Legal Conference on Regional Criminal Judicial Cooperation, in April, in Macao, we emphasised that practical cooperation and coordination between those concerned with law enforcement in different places was often difficult, but that we had to persevere in order to secure the societies we want in China and throughout the region.
That the one country, two systems arrangement has prospered over recent years is not a coincidence. It has succeeded so well due to the positive manner in which the system has been applied and the constructive way in which problems have been resolved. As prosecutors we played a role in 2002 in the evolution of thinking, the sharing of ideas and the pooling of experiences amongst those concerned with the combat of crime. In our own small way we worked hard in 2002 to further the closest possible understanding between legal officials in various parts of China, and to contribute to the process of modernisation and reform.
Throughout 2002 our mission was to sustain and to further professionalism in the conduct of public prosecutions and effectiveness in the combat of crime. As we move forward prosecutors must be focused and imaginative. A properly funded system of public prosecutions is central to the success of any system of criminal justice, and resources must be deployed to best advantage. As we confront the menaces of terrorism, of organised and serious crime, and of cybercrime, as well as of traditional modes of offending, our prosecutors will seek to perform at all times to maximum capacity and to the highest of standards.
At the global level, prosecutors must help one another. That will be achieved through collaboration, training and the exchange of ideas and information. Global crime presents unprecedented yet similar challenges to prosecutors everywhere, and all must pull in the same direction. Now that the Division has established its international credentials, it must play its full part in the years ahead in the combat of transnational as well as localised crime.
In conclusion, I thank the Secretary for Justice, Ms Elsie Leung, for the support and encouragement which she gave to me and to the Division throughout 2002. The progress we were able to make in so many areas was due to her backing and advice. We are indebted to the Secretary for her guidance as well as her understanding.
End/Thursday, April 3, 2003