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Speech by Director of Public Prosecutions


Following is the speech by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Grenville Cross, SC, "Towards a Modern Prosecuting Authority: Challenges and Opportunities", in China-ASEAN Prosecutors General Conference at Kunming, Yunnan today (July 9):

On behalf of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, the Secretary for Justice and I are delighted to have been invited to participate in this important conference. The conference agenda is both ambitious and comprehensive. The organisers are to be complimented for having had the vision to bring together those concerned with public prosecutions in South East Asia for the purpose both of identifying the most effective means of combating transnational crime and of bringing offenders to justice. It is apparent that the parameters of the conference have been defined with precision, and through the exchange of ideas and experiences I have no doubt that a more co-ordinated and therefore a more successful approach to the problems which confront us all will be achieved.

Any examination of training and related exchanges between prosecuting authorities requires an appropriate context. Such a context is supplied by the vital role which Hong Kong plays in the region, as well as internationally, in the combat of all forms of crime, traditional and new. An independent prosecuting authority controls criminal prosecutions, free from any interference. The importance of liaison amongst law enforcers is emphasised on all fronts. Hong Kong prosecutors and investigators collaborate closely with their counterparts in other jurisdictions. A full role is played in the International Association of Prosecutors, and Hong Kong will host its Asia and Pacific Regional Conference in November, 2004. We look forward to welcoming front-line prosecutors on that occasion to examine with us the combat of crimes involving narcotics.

Hong Kong today enjoys a unique status within China as an autonomous common law jurisdiction, under the 'one country, two systems' formula. Rights of citizens are respected, and the actions and decisions of those in authority are subject to the law. As many here today will know, Hong Kong is a safe city in which to live and to do business, and it is a place which insists on high standards in the public and private sectors. An independent judiciary regulates the conduct of those who investigate crime and determines issues of guilt and innocence. Those involved in public prosecutions are guided in all they do by respect for the rule of law. The Hong Kong experience is one which we are happy to share with others. This is nowhere more true than in the areas of law enforcement, the prosecution of crime and training.

Hong Kong remains today what it has always been. It is an international city, a major financial centre, a bridge between the West and the Chinese mainland, an entrepreneurial city in which the talents of all are harnessed for the benefit of the community. Hong Kong is a place where corruption is not tolerated, where the civil service is clean, where investment is secure, where the financial system is closely regulated, and where insider dealing is not countenanced. At the same time, we are keenly aware that Hong Kong is not insulated from global crime trends, and we are determined to play a constructive and a full role in the areas of regional co-operation and the promotion of effective laws to combat new and sophisticated threats to the integrity of our system and our way of life. We recognise, however, that such efforts will only succeed if prosecutors and law enforcers in different places can work in tandem with each other, and ensure that their strategies to deal with crime are complementary to one another. Disunity amongst law enforcers is music to the ears of modern criminal elements.

Everyone involved in the prosecution of crime and the enforcement of the law is aware of the problems posed throughout the region by transnational crime. Threats exist to the well being of people, to the proper conduct of mutual transactions, to the infrastructure of society and to the rule of law itself. Responses by law enforcers are all too often slow, disjointed or unco-ordinated, and this undermines effective law enforcement. The region is plagued with criminal networks, and the threat of terrorism is ever-present. The challenge must be to implement mechanisms which not only contain but also eradicate such activities, particularly by striking decisively at financing. It is in this area that prosecutors have so much to contribute.

If transnational crime is to be combated, the role of the highly trained and utterly committed prosecutor must be central to any strategy. It is the prosecutor who knows how to advise the investigator, how to marshal the evidence, how to gather material from other places, how to present a case, and how to confront challenges at court based on legal, constitutional and other grounds. It is the prosecutor as well who is able to supply the perspective which the courts expect of those who are concerned with the due administration of criminal justice. Those who prosecute must never lose sight, even in the face of the most heinous of crimes, of such imperatives as due process, fair and open justice, the right to a proper defence, and of the importance of transparent and impartial verdicts by courts of law. Prosecutors must never regard the end as justifying the means, no matter how tempting or how desirable that may at times appear.

Modern prosecution services owe it to their societies to strive constantly to combine effectiveness with professionalism, and to do all they can to modernise their processes. In that the role of training is pivotal. Prosecutors in different places must be prepared to share their experiences and training modules with one another, and to pool the lessons learned from their successes as well as from their failures. If modern prosecutors are to function to best advantage their training programmes must emphasise

* Skill in the deployment of the latest techniques and technology;

* Creativity in the use of legal means to bring offenders to account;

* Willingness to apply new ideas and approaches;

* Capacity to think and act globally;

* Professionalism in the pursuit of offenders;

* Respect for human rights in the control of crime;

* Resolution in the prosecution of cases.

A measure of the success of any prosecuting authority must be the manner in which it treats victims of crime and witnesses. Such people must know that they are respected by the system, and it is only if they trust the system that they will report crime and co-operate to the full in order to bring offenders to justice. Hong Kong has in place a Vulnerable Witness Team which comprises 17 prosecutors who are trained in the handling of vulnerable witnesses and who are familiar with the needs of such persons at court. These prosecutors liaise with social workers and police protection units to ensure that the needs of vulnerable witnesses are honoured in the criminal process, and they attend training modules conducted by psychologists and other experts. The prosecutors also ensure that in criminal proceedings the use of the live video link is requested at court where appropriate so that victims do not have to confront the defendants when they testify, but can give their evidence instead from an adjoining room. This helps to minimise the trauma which can arise when victims have to recount their experiences before those accused of crime. Trained prosecutors able to handle cases of this type are essential if witnesses are to have confidence in the efficacy of systems of criminal justice. In this area, we have studied other advanced common law jurisdictions in recent times to enhance our capabilities, and we stand ready to share our experiences with others in the Asia region.

In relation to children, especially, the existence in Hong Kong's prosecuting authority of a dedicated Vulnerable Witness Team has proved to be beneficial. It has enabled us to honour the United Nations Guidelines for Action on Children in the Criminal Justice System, which place emphasis on the special and protective role that prosecutors should play in cases involving child victims and the need to prevent further victimisation of vulnerable children by the criminal justice system. Indeed, let it be remembered that the United Nations Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors affirm the important responsibilities of prosecutors to promote the administration of justice as well as considering the views and concerns of victims. The existence of a team of prosecutors trained in the needs of children and the most vulnerable has contributed to public confidence and to increased rates of conviction in recent times. This, we believe, is good for the rule of law in Hong Kong.

In the training of the modern prosecutor, traditional values must continue to be adhered to and applied. This means that the prosecutor must be made to understand the importance of behaving professionally, in accordance with the law and with the rules and ethics of the profession, and of exercising the highest standards of integrity and care. The prosecutor must always serve and protect the public interest, and safeguard the concepts of human dignity and fair trial. These are values which cannot be compromised or diluted no matter how grave the crime or how wicked the criminal.

At the same time, the proper and effective conduct of public prosecutions requires the modern prosecutor to keep himself abreast of latest techniques and thinking in all areas of prosecutorial responsibility. Continuing legal education is increasingly regarded in Hong Kong as a vital part of career development for prosecutors at all levels, just as it is for lawyers in the private sector. It no longer suffices for the prosecutor simply to be learned in the law and sound in advocacy. He must also be technically astute, and able to master books of account, to follow movements of funds, to comprehend the intricacies of the internet, and to cross-examine the most erudite of scientific and other experts. All of these require skills of the highest order. Our training programmes have been developed accordingly.

In recent times, the prosecuting authority in Hong Kong has honed its capacity to prosecute all types of criminal activity. Prosecutors have been sent on specialised courses, both locally and internationally, to develop their prosecutorial skills. In consequence, we now have in place trained prosecutors who can provide law enforcers with dedicated advice in relation to all aspects of their portfolios. Trained teams have been created to advise on crimes as diverse as terrorism, corruption, computer misuse, money laundering, domestic violence, child pornography and copyright piracy. These prosecutors have developed formidable expertise, which is vital when cases are prosecuted, for some crimes are new to the courts and cases will be lost if the prosecutor is not able to present his case in a way which is cogent, convincing and credible, as well as understandable to juries composed of laymen and to other triers of fact.

As an organisational member of the International Association of Prosecutors, Hong Kong recognises the need for its prosecutors to render assistance to the prosecuting authorities and the prosecutors of other jurisdictions, in accordance with the law and in the spirit of mutual co-operation. Since 1997, Hong Kong prosecutors have advised and lectured their counterparts in the Asia region on issues such as the control of corruption, the countering of internet crime, the combat of money laundering and the containing of copyright piracy. Our prosecuting authority has provided various of its experts to assist others in their training agendas, and prosecutors from elsewhere have visited Hong Kong for specialist prosecutorial guidance. We have also advised on the means of effective office management and the best use of prosecutorial resources. This process is ongoing and it is one we encourage, with the support of the International Association of Prosecutors. As regional prosecutors we believe firmly that the effective combat of crime calls for

* The pooling of training programmes;

* The sharing of anti-crime modules by those jurisdictions which have them with those which have not;

* The exchange of knowledge and expertise.

No systems of law are static, and the importance of prosecutors becoming better trained, more innovative, more responsive and more vigilant is an imperative of the modern era. Corruption, drug trafficking, money laundering, people smuggling and other crimes are conducted these days in sophisticated ways that often generate vast profits, which can then be used to finance other forms of criminality. In order to cope with this situation, prosecutors involved in the administration of criminal justice need to seek constantly to modernise the systems and environments in which they operate. To that end, prosecuting authorities must be properly resourced and adequately manned.

If the modern prosecutor is to meet the needs of society, core values must be maintained, objectives must be defined and the means of maximising the service we provide must be identified. In the opening years of the 21st century it is surely appropriate for those concerned with public prosecutions to assess the scope and efficacy of their operations and to keep their processes under critical review. If necessary or desirable, practices, procedures and policies must be amended or altered. Change is not something for prosecutors to fear, but is rather the vehicle which provides the momentum for the modernisation of methods which may have become outdated, and this is something which may be long overdue.

There will be few who will deny that transnational crime is the defining issue facing the modern prosecutor. If the prosecutors of the Asia region can co-operate with one another in their training agendas as well as in other areas, then this will represent a significant response by those concerned with law and stability throughout the area. The globalisation of crime is now such as to require the parameters of co-operation between prosecuting authorities to be strengthened and expanded, not least with regard to training and the promotion of co-operation. No prosecutor is an island, and no prosecuting authority operates in a vacuum. Just as crime crosses borders, so also must those involved in law enforcement. Kofi Annan has rightly said that 'If the enemies of progress and human rights seek to exploit the openness and opportunities of globalisation for their purposes, then we must exploit those very same factors to defend human rights, and defeat the forces of crime, corruption and trafficking in human beings'.

Ends/Friday, July 9, 2004


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