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就言論自由及惡意中傷法庭事宜提交的意見書

2015/3/31 — 16:13

 

法政匯思就言論自由及惡意中傷法庭事宜提交的意見書  

A.      引言及摘要

A.1    引言

1.         在2014年12月至2015年3月間,若干人士涉嫌於示威期間干犯罪行而被拘捕及檢控。這些人士包括「雨傘運動」的參與者及反水貨示威者。

2.         這些被捕人士中,有部分獲判無罪,其他的則獲撤銷控罪。該等判決受到若干團體和立法會議員[1]的抨擊,以示報復。

3.         法政匯思撰寫本意見書,就法庭可遭受批評的限度、以及批評是否構成「惡意中傷法庭」或「妨礙司法公正」等刑事罪行的相關法律及原則,闡述法政匯思的立場及意見。

4.         本意見書的摘要如下:

(1)       法庭並非不可批評的機構

在一個自由及健全的社會,司法機構及個別法官並沒有亦不應該擁有不可被批評的特權。 相關批評得建基於建設性或理性的討論。越過界線的批評可能會淪為藐視法庭並干犯普通法內「惡意中傷法庭 (scandalising the Court)」或「妨礙司法公正 (interfere with the due administration of justice)」的罪行。

(2)       旨在貶低法庭或法官的權威

當有人發表一些批評或一連串批評並旨在藐視法庭或法官、損害其權威或干擾司法公正,並且造成該等效果的實際風險,便可構成藐視法庭的刑事罪行。

(3)       部分近期摘錄的批評可構成藐視

近日針對司法機構的批評既無合理分析、亦無證據支持。該等批評包括對司法機構作無理及莫須有般的攻擊,以及更嚴重、涉嫌干犯藐視法庭刑事罪行的批評。作為法治至上的社會,我們決不能接受此等欠缺理據、打擊社會對司法程序信心的攻擊。

5.         因此,法政匯思促請有關各方立即停止對司法機構作出該等攻擊。我們更促請律政司司長履行普通法傳統及慣例下肩負司法機構最終捍衛者的任務,作出鏗鏘有力的發聲,阻止那些粗暴、可鄙、針對司法機構的攻擊。作為法律界人士,這是我們對律政司司長的基本期望。

A.2    有關法庭裁決摘錄

6.         有關的法庭裁決或判詞包括但並不限於下列案件:

(1)     約於2015年2月6日,一名男子被控在2014年10月17日於旺角襲警,在觀塘裁判法院經審訊後被裁定罪名不成立。[2]

(2)      無業漢被指去年12月1日凌晨,在旺角通菜街與亞皆老街交界阻差辦公,案件3月12日於九龍城裁判法院開審。惟辯方質疑負責拘捕的警員證供前後矛盾,亦曾與其他警員夾口供。暫委裁判官林子勤指該警員的證供有疑點,審訊後裁定無業漢罪名不成立。[3]

(3)      佔中義工陳玉峰胞弟陳白山於去年10月佔領運動期間,在鴨脷洲家中偷用鄰居的Wi-Fi,上網邀請或煽動他人參與非法集結,被控「不誠實使用電腦致他人蒙受損失」罪,案件3月20日在東區裁判法院提訊,但控方因證據不足而撤控。[4]

(4)      約於2015年3月23日,一名因涉嫌藐視法庭禁制令被捕但獲律政司撤銷起訴的人士所提出之訟費申請,獲高等法院法官周家明接納並獲判處可得訟費。[5]

(5)      警方去年11月25日到旺角佔領區進行清場行動,其間爆發警民衝突,一名警長稱當晚在長沙街欲阻止一名男子加入警民衝突時,遭對方搶盾牌兼踢腳,當對方跌倒時,更遭對方踢傷拇指。涉案男子被控襲警,案件3月日在九龍城法院審理。裁判官確信事主的傷勢,源自與被告的肢體接觸所造成,惟控方未能證明被告有意圖襲警,裁定襲警控罪不成立。[6]

(6)      約於2015年3月26日,東區裁判法院裁定一名在2014年12月1日於金鐘添馬公園向警員擲頭盔的人士無罪。[7]

A.3    媒體報導摘錄

7.         法庭作出上述裁決後,若干人士對有關的司法或檢控決定多次撰文作出抨擊,並經由主流傳媒報導。 已出版的相關報導來自眾多媒體,部分摘錄如下:

(1)       英文《中國日報》 (3-16-2015): [8] 3-Caring Hong Kong Power staged its rally outside the High Court in Admiralty which they considered to be too lenient in handling cases involving acts of violence committed by anti-mainlander protestors.” (「…愛護香港力量到金鐘高等法院門外示威,該組織認為法院對反內地人示威者的暴力行為過於縱容。」(此乃中文譯本))。

(2)       《大公報》 (3-16-2015): [9] 「就黃毓民、陳偉業三年前的非法集會案件,高院法官前日推翻裁判官判決,認為 「刑罰過重」將緩刑改成只作罰款。這一改判引起社會爭議,法庭固然需要嚴格遵守中立客觀準則,絕不應作出政治判決,然而,如果對諸如非法集會等顯而易見的違法行為過於縱容,實際上是等同向社會發出錯誤的訊息……基於這些理據,律政司有足夠的法律理據提出上訴,而法庭也應當以專業依法作出判決……縱容不斷的犯罰行為,無異於鼓勵犯罪,也是向社會發出極其錯誤的訊息。錯誤的判決應當得到糾正,公眾不希望因此次高院的判決而助長了 「佔領中環」這類嚴重的違法行為。」。(強調後加)

(3)       《文匯報》 (3-16-2015): [10]「有團體不滿當局懲罰寬鬆,令暴徒有恃無恐繼續作亂。愛護香港力量約20多名成員,昨日下午到金鐘高等法院門外示威,抗議「反水貨客」暴徒搗亂香港,律政司及法官卻未有嚴懲,屢屢放生滋事分子。愛港力召集人李家家批評法官僅輕判示威者守行為、緩刑或社會服務令,無法證明法律具阻嚇性作用,呼籲「治亂世,用重典」,隨後律政司及高院派代表接收請願信。成員在集會期間高叫「警察拉人、法官放人」的口號,促法官嚴懲暴力示威者。李家家其後讀出致律政司司長袁國強,及終審法院首席法官馬道立的公開信,批評當局雙重標準。她舉例,日前有70多歲老婦因多次偷水餃被判監4個半月,但「反水貨」暴徒衝擊商店,商戶被逼「拉閘」引致收入損失,情況有如被打劫,卻沒有任何懲處。李家家又重提去年發生的「佔中」事件,不滿犯事者至今仍未受到法律制裁,令港人一直依賴的司法制度,猶如蕩然無存。」。

(4)       《蘋果日報》(3-25-2015): [11] 「高達斌又批評本港法官經常輕判示威人士,令香港遊行「行政主導」變成「司法主導」,「警察咁辛苦拉到人,上到法庭畀你嗰班狗官咁判,真係激死」。他認為梁振英現時未夠強硬,「如果我做肯定強過佢、硬過佢」,包括要求律政司加快控告佔領行動發起人、要求人大釋法推翻本港法官的判決,更不排除稍後會到法官住所抗議判決。」。(強調後加)

(5)       《明報》 (3-25-2015): [12] 「愛港之聲」主席高達斌接受《蘋果日報》訪問時,批評本港法官經常輕判示威者,令香港遊行「行政主導」變成「司法主導」,「警察咁辛苦拉到人,上到法庭畀你嗰班狗官咁判,真係激死。」。(強調後加)

(6)       EJInsight (3-25-2015): [13] “In other topics, [Patrick] Ko slammed local judges for handing out lenient sentences to protesters who were convicted. The administration should have adopted a firmer line against anti-government protesters, he said.” (「就其它議題,高[達斌]猛烈抨擊本地法官輕判被定罪的示威者。高聲稱政府應該對反政府示威者採取更強硬的態度。」(此乃中文譯本))。

(7)       《立場新聞》 (3-27-2015): [14] 「一個名為「光復香港」的親建制組織今日在《東方日報》刊登廣告,呼籲市民大眾在明日下午5時,參加在中環遮打花園舉行的集會,反對法庭「判決不公」,導致佔領行動中的示威者被「警拉官放」。「光復香港」在Facebook專頁上表示,活動中會讓參加者登記輪流發言,又會一起唱「打開蚊帳‧立會版」及「獅子山下」兩首歌曲。組織呼籲即使現場有「黃絲」發言,「各位也要尊重及冷靜」,集會至晚上8時結束。組織亦在Facebook上載了相信是明日集會時使用的標語,當中包括「民撐CY,票踢泛民,香港無得輸」及「假髮官有法不依,犯氓更有恃無恐」等。其中部分標語更涉及人身攻擊:「踢走拉布賤議員,大舊犯威基佬全」。「光復香港」聲稱由十多名互不認識、無政黨背景市民,在另一親中團體「幫港出聲」的Facebook內認識,之後自發出來籌辦集會。去年10月,「光復香港」在維園舉行反佔中集會,聲稱有超過2,000人參加。」。

(8)       《蘋果日報》(3-28-2015): [15] 「一群自稱在「幫港出聲」facebook專頁認識、無政黨背景的網民,建立「光復香港」facebook群組,今日在中環遮打花園舉行題為「公義,妳在那裡」的集會,約60名市民參與,聯署希望政府及警方嚴厲執法,不要再出現「警察拉人、法官放人」的情況,姑息違法行為。 團體在現場掛起聲稱從網上收集的標語,如「假髮官有法不依」、「香港法治由官話事」、「我要包青天」等。部份市民又高舉「廢除司法獨立免責 打擊司法舞弊貪污」的標語,批評有人擾亂社會秩序,卻沒受法律制裁,是司法不公。」

(a)       該等標語上展示的口號包括: [16]

(i)        「禍港法官,快快Go Home」;
(ii)       「法官亂判亡法治」;
(iii)      「黃屍法官首尾門,屋企屎坑水倒灌」;
(iv)      「廢除司法獨立免責,打擊司法舞弊貪污」;
(v)       「警拉官放,謀殺法治」;
(vi)      「假髪官有法不依,犯氓更有侍(恃)無恐」; 及
(vii)     「我要真法官,不要假髪官」。

(b)       在上述 Facebook 相片字幕更清楚表明 片《市民心聲,你講,我印!》謝謝各位踴躍提供標語字句,如諾,你講,我印。各位官大人,看到市民的心聲沒有?明天 5pm 來遮打花園, 一起把標語上的心聲說出來,不單要位高權重的官員聽到,更要中央也聽到市民的怒吼!”

B.      藐視法庭的相關法律

B.1    普通法罪行

8.         表達和發表意見的自由是《基本法》及《香港人權法案》下所保障的基本權利。 「藐視法庭」是普通法下的罪行。有案例指出該罪行是上述基本權利的「必要」豁免,以維護「司法機構的公正及權威」:  見 黃陽午 訴 律政司司長 一案 (1999) 2 HKLRD 293。

9.         亦有案例指出,該罪行在範圍較小的司法管轄區有更大的需要並更有迫切性:見 Dhookarika v DPP [2014] 3 WLR 1081 及 前述 黃陽午 案。

10.      此罪行的定義狹窄,而且其適用範圍只限於法官或法院所作出與行使其司法職權相關的行為。 此罪行旨在保護司法公義,而並非顧及法官的感受。

11.      當有人發表一些評論或一連串評論並旨在 (即具實際意圖或罔顧後果地) 藐視法庭或法官、損害其權威或干擾司法公正,並且造成該等效果的「實際風險」,便可構成「惡意中傷法庭」的刑事罪行。馬天敏副庭長在 黃陽午 案判詞第312頁中寫道:

「對於一項聲明(或行為)是在最廣泛的意義中蓄意作出去干擾司法,證據是必要的。證據需證明該聲明(或行為)有一個真正的風險會干擾司法,和有意圖(心理因素)去干擾司法,或意識到但忽略有可能的結果的魯莽行為…」

12.      換句話說,申訴人 (通常是律政司司長) 必須證明有關行為或言論會構成影響司法公正的「實際風險」。

13.      「影響司法公正」可在兩個相似但不同的分支下發生。見 R v Gray (1900) 2 QB 36 (由Lord Russell CJ 頒佈)(第40頁):

(1)       惡意中傷法庭: 任何作出的行為或書面發表旨在對法庭或法官藐視,或降低其權威,即為藐視法庭。; 及/或

(2)       干預司法公正:任何作出的行為或書面發表旨在阻撓或干預司法公正或法院的正常程序,即為藐視法庭。

14.      兩個分支之間的區別並不清晰。兩個分支的定義存在重疊,而且實際上視乎每個獨立案件的案情而定。

15.      「惡意中傷法院」罪行在香港的權威案例是上訴庭在 律政司 訴 東方報業集團有限公司 一案 (1998) 2 HKLRD 123。 上訴庭在判詞第148頁中指出:

「一個文明的社會不能在沒有有效執法的機制下生存。執法的任務落在法庭和主持法庭的法官上 。對於法治來說,司法機構持續得到尊重和維護司法機構的尊嚴一直被視為是至關重要的。否則,公眾對司法的信心就會受到損害,而法律本身亦會名譽掃地。這是法律的一個分支 ── 藐視法庭(又稱為「惡意中傷法院」)- 背後的基本原理。」(強調後加)

16.      如在任何一分支下出現影響司法公正的實質風險,法庭將考慮該評論或一系列評論是否善意地作出的。 是否善意並非由一般的道德標準釐定。 反之,法庭在上述 Dhookarika 案的判詞中謹慎地對有關測試描述為:

「…試委員會認為,正如 Lord Steyn 所述,從犯罪行為方面來看,若接納必須出現損害公眾對司法公正信心的實質風險,那麼相應的犯罪意圖應與該風險的構成有關。 如被告有意圖或主觀而罔顧後果地損害公眾對司法公正的信心,判處被告有罪是合理的判決;但如需證明其他更一般性的思想狀態可構成足以定罪的相關惡意,卻是不容易的。 」(此乃中文譯本)

17.      這是指某人如具實際意圖、或主觀而罔顧後果地造成該等實質風險,並同時缺乏「有理可據」或「公正意見」等抗辯理由時,則該人便可被裁定犯下藐視法庭罪。

C.      對有關評論的分析

C.1    有關評論

18.      必須強調,以上摘錄的評論並無包括立法會議員的評論;而原因是原本藐視法庭清晰簡單的法律,因議員享有的豁免起訴權而變得複雜。 因此本文就應用藐視法庭相關法律的分析,將限於採用「愛港之聲」高達斌的評論及「光復香港」出示的標語作為例子。

C.2      就有關評論的分析

19.      「愛港之聲」高達斌:

(1)       高先生的評論包括將法院的法官描述為一班「狗官」。「狗官」在中文口語是一個帶咒罵意思的詞語,通常用作貶低在位掌權並有貪污傾向的官員。我們認為此評論與暗示法官是一個協助及教唆「貪污」的「潑婦」而貶低了法庭的權威無異:見 Secretary for Justice v Choy Bing Wing [2011] 2 HKC 342。

(2)       高先生將法官批評為狗,亦應考慮作出該批評的下述文意: (a) 法官判處佔領人士無罪,即是還原警察辛勤工作的成果,及 (b) 該等無罪裁決是不穩妥而且需要人大常委會推翻該等無罪裁決,而且 (c) 他並不排除於法官的住所外抗議。

(3)       我們認為高先生的上述批評可能在任何一個分支下已造成影響司法公正的「實質風險」。 這是因為此等批評可理解為旨在藐視主審有關案件的法院或法官,或貶低他們的判決 (尤其是無罪裁決)。我們認為這是非常嚴重的指控,因為刑事法庭的功能清晰,只會基於已呈堂的證據作定罪,而不會考慮政治等外在因素。此外,高先生的批評中威脅向法官示威,可視為向法官施壓威脅他們在證據不足的情況下定罪。

(4)       我們亦認為高先生的批評也可能是主觀而罔顧後果的。法庭將考慮高先生在本地政治中非常活躍。他作為「愛港之聲」的召集人及創辦人的身份可作為定罪的考慮因素。當高先生對記者作出該等批評,我們可推論他是有能力,而且清楚明白到影響司法公正可能招致的後果,但他仍故意選擇去擴大及覆述該等批評。

(5)       至於高先生是否有「善意批評」的抗辯理由,法庭將不會考慮高先生的批評可否確立為公正意見。只要證明高先生是主觀地罔顧後果並有能力、或已經將公眾對司法公正的信心造成損害,高先生的批評便可視為惡意的。此等惡意批評的證據將足夠支持惡意中傷法庭的藐視罪行之定罪。

20.      「光復香港」所採用的標語:

(1)       「光復香港」所採用的標語,正如上文第 6 段所述,是基於高先生早前所作的評論擴大的。我們察覺到這些標語是列印在紙板上,而且曾於公眾集會遊行示威期間展示出來的。這些標語的照片更隨後上載至該團體的臉書專頁上,可供一般使用互聯網的任何人士瀏覽。

(2)       我們認為「光復香港」所採用的標語,在任何一個分支下都已造成影響司法公正的「實質風險」。該等批評是明顯地帶侮辱性,而且並無任何事實上或法律上的分析或支持。該等標語無論在個別還是整體上,都是明顯地藐視法庭及司法制度,如指稱法官為「假」、「亂判」、「有法不依」及 「舞弊貪污」,可視為旨在藐視主審有關案件的法庭或法官或貶低他們所作判決(尤其是無罪裁決)的權威。一些標語如「法官亂判亡法治」或「廢除司法獨立免責,打擊司法舞弊貪污」,不但藐視法庭或法院的法官,而且可鄙地指稱法院不依法運用司法權力並損害法治。這些指稱旨在導致法庭審理現有或未來有關雨傘運動及反水貨客示威者的案件時,使司法公正或法院的合法程序受到妨礙或干擾。

(3)       「光復香港」的其他標語,例如「黃屍法官首尾門,屋企屎坑水倒灌」或「假髪官有法不依,犯氓更有侍(恃)無恐」,同樣地表示法官及法庭有某些政治考慮,因而忽略呈堂證供。這是違反刑事法庭如上所述、只會基於已呈堂的證據作定罪而不會考慮政治等外在因素的清晰做法。

(4)       我們亦認為該等標語是明顯有意圖地或至少主觀的罔顧後果地製造一個損害公眾對司法公正信心的實質風險。「光復香港」於2015年3月26日在其臉書群組專頁上標明呼籲法院及法官去看大眾「衷心的願望」,並鼓勵更多人士加入示威行列,使這些心聲不只讓法院及法官聽到,更要讓中央人民政府聽到。

(5)       善意的抗辯理由在這裏並不適用,因為從「光復香港」的臉書群組專頁及其標語均顯而易見,「光復香港」即使沒有主觀的意圖,也有實質的意圖損害公眾對法庭及司法機構的信心。

D.      結語

21.      總括來看,部分近期針對司法機構的批評既無合理分析,亦無證據支持。那些批評包括對司法機構作無理及莫須有般的攻擊,以及更嚴重、涉嫌干犯藐視法庭刑事罪行的批評。 特別是那些稱呼法官為「狗官」、帶有侮辱或謾罵性質的言語、以及那些指控法庭並無依法行使司法職能的描述,都在破壞法治;至於那些指稱司法獨立導致貪污及亂判的言論則為惡意中傷並干預司法公正。

22.      法政匯思認為法治至上的社會決不能接受此等欠缺理據、打擊社會對司法程序信心的攻擊。

23.      再者,不論議員的豁免起訴權是否適用,我們對於個別立法會議員濫用其職權及權威,並針對法庭作出無理的抨擊表示遺憾。

24.      因此,法政匯思呼籲促請有關各方立即停止對司法機構作出該等攻擊。我們更促請律政司司長履行普通法傳統及慣例下肩負司法機構最終捍衛者的任務,作出鏗鏘有力的發聲,阻止那些粗暴、可鄙、針對司法機構的攻擊。作為法律界人士,這是我們對律政司司長的基本期望。

法政匯思
 
2015年3月31日

[1]  http://paper.wenweipo.com/2015/03/27/HK1503270006.htm

[2]  http://news.mingpao.com/ins/佔旺it顧問被控襲警判無罪/web_tc/article/20150206/s00001/ 1423199795291

[3]   https://thestandnews.com/society/到旺-購物-男子被控阻差不成立-警證供前後矛盾/

     http://specials.mingpao.com/cfm/News.cfm?SpecialsID=137&News=aab954df23f50540c8fe411732547722acdc4d61b2f6542c808c59792af6640d8a82

[4]   http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20150321/19084572

[5]  http://legalref.judiciary.gov.hk/lrs/common/search/search_result_detail_frame.jsp?DIS=97640 &QS=+&TP=JU

[6]   http://www.singpao.com/XW/gat/201503/t20150325_552540.html

[7]   http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20150328/19093278

[8]   http://www.chinadailyasia.com/hknews/2015-03/16/content_15239239.html

[9]   http://paper.takungpao.com/resfile/PDF/20140521/PDF/a4_screen.pdf

[10] http://paper.wenweipo.com/2015/03/16/YO1503160006.htm

[11]http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20150325/19089348

[12]http://news.mingpao.com/ins1503251427242986568, http://news.mingpao.com/ins1503251427244063547

[13] http://www.ejinsight.com/20150325-patrick-ko-says-leung-has-done-well-by-taking-on-anti-beijing-forces/

[14]https://www.thestandnews.com/politics/光復香港-明集會-抗議法庭-放生-佔領者/

[15]http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/realtime/news/20150328/53578692

[16] https://www.facebook.com/cleanhk/posts/1627467500802590

 

Freedom of Speech and Scandalising the Court 
Submissions of the Progressive Lawyers Group


A.        Introduction and Executive Summary

A.1    Introduction

1.         During the period from December 2014 to March 2015, various persons have been arrested and prosecuted for alleged crimes committed while protesting, including some participants of the Umbrella Movement, and anti-parallel trading protestors.

2.         Some of those cases have resulted in outright acquittal, while others have been withdrawn.   In response, various groups, including members of the Legislative Council members[1] in Hong Kong have criticized such rulings.

3.         This document sets out the Progressive Lawyers Group’s position in relation to the law and principles concerning the extent to which the Courts can be subject to criticism, and when such criticism may be subject to committal for the offence of criminal contempt for either “scandalising the Court”, or “interfering with the due administration of justice”, or both. 

(1)       Courts are not immune from criticism
In a free and healthy society, the Judiciary and individual judges are not and should not be immune to criticism.  However, criticism should only be expressed in a constructive or reasonable manner.  Where criticism crosses the line, it may amount to an offence of contempt of Court because such criticism “scandalises the Court”, or “interferes with the due administration of justice”, or both.

(2)       Calculated to lower the Court’s or a Judge’s authority
Where a comment or a series of comments is “calculated” to bring a Court or a Judge of the court into contempt, or to lower his/her authority, or to interfere with the administration of justice or a lawful process, and where there is a real risk of such effects, such a comment or series of comments would constitute as criminal contempt of court.

(3)       Some of the recent criticisms can be cited for contempt
Some of recent criticisms against the judiciary as described below are not supported by any reasoned analysis or any evidence.  Such baseless undermining of society’s confidence in the judicial process is unacceptable in a place where the rule of law is paramount.  These comments range from being at best unreasonable and unwarranted attacks on the judiciary, to being at worst outright criminal contempt of court.

IN SUMMARY:

4.         The Progressive Lawyers Group therefore calls on these recent attacks on the Judiciary to cease immediately.  As members of the legal profession, we call upon the Secretary for Justice, who under the common law tradition and convention, as the ultimate defender of the Judiciary, shoulders the duty to speak out clearly and forcefully against such outrageous and scurrilous attacks against the Courts.

A.2    Summary of Court Decisions

5.         The following is a list of relevant rulings or decisions which is not intended to be exhaustive:

(1)       On or about 6 February 2015, the Kwun Tong Magistrates Court found a person not guilty for assaulting a police officer, in Mong Kok on 17 October 2014;[2]

(2)       On or about 12 March 2015, the Kowloon City Magistrates Court acquitted a person for the offence of obstructing a police officer in the course of his duties at the junction of Tung Choi Street and Argyle Street in December 2014.  The Magistrate held that the evidence of the prosecution was contradictory and therefore of sufficient doubt;[3]

(3)       On or about 20 March 2015, a defendant was acquitted of the offence of “access to a computer with criminal or dishonest intent”.  The defendant was accussed of unauthorised use of a Wi-Fi hotspot.  The Eastern Magistrates Court agreed with the defence and ruled that there was no case to answer on the basis of insufficient evidence; [4]

(4)       On or about 23 March 2015, Mr. Justice Chow in the High Court awarded costs to a person who was cited for contempt in breach of an injunction by the Secretary for Justice, but whose charge of contempt was withdrawn;[5]

(5)       On or about 24 March 2015, the Kowloon City Magistrates found a defendant not guilty of assaulting a police officer on or about November 25 2014 during the clearance operation of the Mong Kok protest site.   On the evidence after trial, the Magistrate held that the prosecution could not adduce evidence to prove that the defendant had an intention to harm the police officer and was acquitted;[6]

(6)       On or about 26 March 2015, the Eastern Magistrates Court found a person not guilty of throwing a helmet at a police officer on 1 December 2015 in Tamar Park, Admiralty.[7]

A.3    Summary of Press Clippings

6.         As the Courts handed down such decisions, various statements criticizing such judicial or prosecutorial decisions have been made and reported by the mainstream press.  Again these are extracts from various sources and are not intended to be seen as exhaustive:

(1)       China Daily (3-16-2015): [8] “…Caring Hong Kong Power staged its rally outside the High Court in Admiralty which they considered to be too lenient in handling cases involving acts of violence committed by anti-mainlander protestors.”

(2)       Takungpao (3-16-2015): [9] “The day before yesterday, the High Court overturned the Magistrate's ruling three years ago in Wong Yuk Man and Chan Wai Yip's cases of illegal assembly and found the sentence manifestly excessive  by revising the suspended sentence to imposing fines only. Such a change is controversial in the society. The Court ought to be neutral and objective and refrain from making political judgments. However, the indulgence of conducts which are obviously illegal such as illegal assembly will send a wrong signal to the society.... On this basis, the Department of Justice has sufficient reasons to appeal and the Court must judge cases professionally in accordance with the law.... The indulgence of repeated illegal conducts is no different from encouraging the commitment of offences and sends an extremely wrong signal to society. A wrong judgment should be corrected, since the public does not wish the High Court's ruling to encourage serious illegal conduct such as "occupy Central.” (emphasis added)

(3)       Wenweipo (3-16-2015): [10] “Some groups are dissatisfied that the sentences were too light which fail to deter the rioters who continue to cause chaos. Approximately 20 members of Caring Hong Kong Power demonstrated in front of the High Court in Admiralty yesterday afternoon to protest against the anti-parallel traders rioters causing chaos in Hong Kong and the failure of the Department of Justice and Judges to punish the rioters. The convenor of Caring Hong Kong Power Lee Ka-ka criticised the judges for imposing only bindover, suspended sentences or community service orders against protesters, which failed to show any deterrence of the law, and called for "heavy sentences to be imposed in chaotic times". The Department of Justice and the High Court sent representatives to accept petition letters. Members of the group shouted "police arrest, judges release", urging judges to severely punish violent protesters. Lee Ka-ka read out the open letter to Rimsky Yuen, the Secretary for Justice and Chief Justice Ma of the Court of Final Appeal, criticising the authorities for adopting double standards. She said a woman over seventy years old was recently sentenced to four and a half imprisonment for stealing dumplings, while the anti-parallel-traders rioters attacked shops forcing shop owners to close their shops causing loss of income, which is no different from committing robbery. Lee Ka-ka again referred to the "occupy Central" last year and her dissatisfaction that the offenders are still unpunished, which made the justice system the Hong Kong people all along relied on virtually non-existent.” (emphasis added)

(4)       Apple Daily and Ming Pao[11] (3-25-2015): Patrick Ko of “Voice of Loving Hong Kong” complained about the leniency of sentences handed down by judges against protesters, saying that “The police worked hard to arrest these people, but when they get to court these dog-judges rules in such a way, it’s so upsetting.”[12] (emphasis added)

(5)       EJInsight (3-25-2015): [13] “In other topics, [Patrick] Ko slammed local judges for handing out lenient sentences to protesters who were convicted. The administration should have adopted a firmer line against anti-government protesters, he said.”

(6)      Standnews (3-27-2015):[14] “A pro-establishment group named "Clean Hong Kong[15]" advertised in Oriental Daily today calling for a demonstration in Chater Garden in Central tomorrow at 5 pm to protest the "unjust rulings" of the Courts which led to the release of the Occupy Central protesters arrested by the police. The "Clean Hong Kong" group said on their Facebook page that the participants would register and take turns to speak in the event, and sing "Open the Mosquito Net. LegCo version" and "Below the Lion Rock" together. The group said if any yellow ribbons speaks at the event, the participants must be respectful and calm. The assembly will end at 8 pm. The group posted slogans believed to be used during the assembly tomorrow, including "the people support CY, vote out the pan-democrats, Hong Kong cannot lose" and "Wigged judges do not enforce the law, criminals have no fear" etc. Some slogans are personal attacks: "kick out the filibustering rogue LegCo members, 'Tai Kau' (Chan Wai Yip) Criminal Wai Gay Tsuen". "Clean Hong Kong" claims it is formed by a dozen of citizens who did not know each other and had no party liaison. They got together via the Facebook page of another pro-China group "Silent Majority" and decided to organise assemblies of their own volition. Last October, "Clean Hong Kong" organised an anti Occupy Central assembly and claimed over 2,000 people took part.”

(7)       Apple Daily  (3-28-2015): [16] “A group of people who claimed to have known each other via the "Silent Majority" Facebook page and have no party liaison formed a Facebook group "Clean Hong Kong". They hosted an assembly in Chater Garden in Central called "Justice where are you". Approximately 60 people took part and signed a petition for the government and police to enforce the law strictly and avoid "police arrest, judges release" which condone illegal behaviour. The group display at the assembly slogans claimed to have been collected online such as...”

(a)       Such slogans include:[17]
(i)         “Judges who ruin Hong Kong, hurry up and go home” (“禍港法官,快快 Go Home”);
(ii)        “Judges ruling recklessly have killed the rule of law” (“法官亂判亡法治”);
(iii)       “With yellow corpse [a homonym in Cantonese for ‘yellow ribbon’] judges as gatekeepers, the water in our home’s “shithole” is poured out backwards” (“黃屍法官首尾門,屋企屎坑水倒灌”);
(iv)      “Abolish the judiciary’s independent immunity, hit out at the judiciary’s malpractice and corruption” (“廢除司法獨立免責,打擊司法舞弊貪污”);
(v)       “Police arrests and judges release, judges murder the rule of law” (“警拉官放,謀殺法治”);
(vi)      “Fake wig judges do not follow laws, guilty hooligans [being a homonym in Cantonese for ‘pan-democrats’] become daring and fearless” (“假髪官有法不依,犯氓更有侍無恐”); and
(vii)     “I want real judges, not fake wig judges” (“我要真法官,不要假髪官”).

(b)       Facebook photo caption for the slogans in (7)(a) above further says “《市民心聲,你講,我印!》The public’s heartfelt wishes, You Say, I Print!) “Thank you for everyones contribution for the slogans and to the campaign of you say, I print.  To all those officials, do you see the people’s hearts yet?  Tomorrow at 5 pm at Chater Gardens, let us bring these slogans there and say it out loud, not only for those officials in power, but also so that the Central People’s Government can hear the anger of the residents!”

B.       The Law on Contempt

B.1    Common Law Offence

7.         The freedom of expression and opinion is a fundamental right protected by the Basic Law and the Bill of Rights.  The common law offence of contempt of court has been held as a “necessary” restriction to those rights in order to maintain “the authority and impartiality of the judiciary”: see Wong Yeung Ng v Secretary for Justice (1999) 2 HKLRD 293.

8.         It has also been held that the need for this offence is greater and more pressing in smaller jurisdictions, see Dhookarika v DPP [2014] 3 W.L.R. 1081 and Wong Yeung Ng (supra).

9.         The offence is narrowly defined and extends only to the conduct of the judge or Courts related to their performance on the bench – existing only to protect the administration of justice rather than the feelings of the judges.

10.      A Court will find that a comment or series of comments is an actionable contempt if such comment or series of comments was calculated (either by actual or reckless intent) to bring a Court or judge into contempt or lower their authority or to interfere with the administration of justice and there is a "real risk" that the due administration of justice would be interfered with.  This is explained by Mortimer V-P in Wong Yeung Ng v Secretary for Justice (1999) 2 HKLRD 293 per at p. 312:

[P]roof was necessary that the statement (or conduct) was calculated to interfere with the administration of justice in its widest sense; that it involved a “real risk” that the due administration of justice could be interfered with and (the mental element) that there was an intention to interfere with the administration of justice, or recklessness, by appreciating this possible consequence and ignoring it….”

11.      In other words, the complainant (usually the Secretary for Justice) must prove that the acts or words create a real risk of prejudicing the administration of justice.

12.      “Prejudicing the administration of justice” can occur under either of two recognized limbs, see R v Gray (1900) 2 QB 36 per Lord Russell CJ (at p.40):

(1)       Scandalising the Court: Any act done or writing published calculated to bring a Court or a judge of the Court into contempt, or to lower his authority, is a contempt of Court; and/or

(2)       Interference with the administration of justice: Any act done or writing published calculated to obstruct or interfere with the due course of justice or the lawful process of the Courts is a contempt of Court.

13.      The distinction between the two limbs is not always clear as the two limbs overlap and whether a comment or series of comments falls under either is in reality dependent on the facts of each individual case.

14.      The leading authority on “scandalising the Court” in Hong Kong is the Court of Appeal case Secretary v The Oriental Press Group Ltd and Others (1998) 2 HKLRD 123 where the Court of Appeal held at p.148 that:

“A civilised community cannot survive without effective machinery for the enforcement of its law.  The task of enforcing those laws falls on the courts, and on the judges who preside over them.  It has always been regarded as vital to the rule of law for respect for the judiciary to be maintained and for their dignity to be upheld. If it were otherwise, public confidence in the administration of justice would be undermined, and the law itself would fall into disrepute. That is the rationale for the branch of the law of contempt known as ‘scandalising the court’.” (emphasis added)

15.      If there is a real risk of prejudicing the administration of justice under either limb, the Court will then consider whether the comment or series of comments were made in good faith.  Good faith does not mean a general test of morality.  Instead, the Court in Dhookarika v DPP [2014] 3 W.L.R. 1081 at §49 was careful to describe the test as:

“… it appears to the Board that, once it is accepted that, as Lord Steyn put it in the context of actus reus, there must be a real risk of undermining public confidence in the administration of justice, the relevant mens rea should be related to the creation of that risk and that, while it makes sense to hold that the defendant commits the offence if he intends to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice or is subjectively reckless as to whether he did so, it is not easy to see that any other, more general, state of mind would amount to relevant bad faith sufficient to support a conviction.”

16.      This means that persons are guilty of contempt of Court if they actually intended, or were subjectively reckless as to the creation of that risk, as opposed to a “justification” or “fair opinion” type of defences.

C.        Analysis of the Comments

C.1    Comments

17.      The above sample of comments did not include those from Legislative Council members.  Issues of parliamentary privilege complicate what are otherwise clear and simple legal issues.  Therefore the analysis here will be restricted to the comments made by Patrick Ko of “Voice of Loving Hong Kong” and slogans used by “Recover Hong Kong” (光復香港), as examples to illustrate how the law of contempt operates.

C.2    Analysis of the Comments

18.      Patrick Ko of “Voice of Loving Hong Kong”

(1)       Mr. Ko's comments include the description of the Court’s judges as a group of “dog judges” (“狗官”).  The meaning of dog-judges is a colloquial Chinese curse word that is usually deployed to denigrate officials in positions of power with corrupt tendencies.  This is in our view no different from suggesting that a judge is a “bitch” who aids and abets “corruption” to undermine the authority of the Court, see Secretary for Justice v Choy Bing Wing [2011] 2 HKC 342. 

(2)       Mr. Ko’s criticism of the judges as dogs must also be seen in the context that: (a) in acquitting Occupy protestors, the judges are undoing the hard work of the police, and (b) the acquittals are unsafe and require the NPCSC to overturn such acquittals, and (c) that he will not rule out protesting at the residences of judges.

(3)       We are of the view that Mr Ko’s criticisms above may have created a “real risk” of prejudicing the administration of justice under both limbs.  This is because such comments can be construed as calculated to bring the Court or the judges dealing with these cases into contempt, or to lower the authority of their findings (especially acquittals).  In our view, this is egregious because the clear function of the criminal Court is to only convict on the evidence before it, and not to consider external factors such as politics.  Furthermore, Mr. Ko’s criticisms that threaten protests against judges can be seen as threats to apply pressure to judges to convict even if there is insufficient evidence.

(4)       We are also of the view that Mr. Ko’s comments may be subjectively reckless.  The Court will consider Mr. Ko’s active involvement in local politics.   It is relevant that he is the convener (and founder) of “Voice of Loving Hong Kong”. When Mr Ko made such comments to reporters, it can be inferred that he is capable of, and did appreciate the possible consequence of prejudicing the administration of justice, yet he deliberately chose to expand and repeat such criticisms.

(5)       As to whether the defence of good faith is available to Mr. Ko, the Court will not consider whether Mr. Ko’s comments can be justified as fair opinion.  Bad faith is established as long as Mr. Ko is found to be subjectively reckless and is capable of, or has undermined public confidence in the administration of justice. Such evidence of bad faith would be sufficient to support a conviction for the offence of contempt for scandalising the Court.

19.      Slogans used by “Recover Hong Kong”

(1)       The slogans published by “Recover Hong Kong”, as described in paragraph 6 above, expanded upon Mr. Ko’s earlier comments.  We note that these slogans were printed on placards and were put on display in protests in public meetings, and were uploaded to its public Facebook community page, which means that they are generally accessible to anyone with Internet connection.

(2)       We are of the view that the slogans used by “Recover Hong Kong” have created a “real risk” of prejudicing the administration of justice under both limbs. The comments are clearly derogatory and are made without any factual or legal analysis or basis.  The slogans individually or collectively express clear contempt for the Court and the judicial process, describing judges as “fake”, conducting in “malpractice” and are “corrupt”, can be construed as calculated to bring the Court or the judges dealing with these cases into contempt, or to lower the authority of their findings (especially acquittals).  For example, the slogans that say “judges ruling recklessly have killed the rule of law” or “abolish the judiciary’s independent immunity, hit out at the judiciary’s malpractice and corruption”, not only bring a Court or a judge of the Court into contempt, with scurrilous allegations that the Courts as having exercised their judicial functions contrary to the law and are undermining the rule of law; they were also calculated to obstruct or interfere with the due course of justice or the lawful process of the Courts when deciding existing or future cases concerning participants of the Umbrella Movement and anti-parallel trading protestors. Any allegation of wrongdoing by a judge is furthermore extremely serious.

(3)       Other slogans by “Recover Hong Kong”, for example,  “with yellow corpse (yellow ribbon) judges as gatekeepers, the water in our home’s “shithole” is poured out backwards” or “fake wig judges do not follow laws, guilty hooligans become daring and fearless” likewise express the view that judges and Courts have certain political persuasions and would therefore consider those instead of the evidence before them, contrary to the clear function of the criminal Court is to only convict on the evidence before it, and not external factors like politics, as stated above.

(4)       We are also of the view that it is clear the slogans were expressly intended to create a real risk to undermine public confidence in the administration of justice or were at least subjectively reckless as to whether they did. This is because “Recover Hong Kong” expressly stated in its Facebook community page on 26 March 2015 a call to the Court and judges to see the “heartfelt wishes” of the public, and for more people to join the protest so that not only can the Court and judges hear about such wishes, the Central People’s Government would be able to as well.

(5)       The defence of good faith is unlikely to apply here as it is quite apparent from both the Facebook community blog the slogans that the “Recover Hong Kong” had actual, if not subjective intent to undermine public confidence in the Courts and judiciary.

D.        Conclusion

20.      In conclusion, some of the recent comments against the Judiciary as described are not supported by any reasoned analysis or any evidence. These comments range from being at best unreasonable and unwarranted attacks on the Judiciary, to being at worst outright criminal contempt of court. In particular, those which describe judges as “狗官” ("dog-judges”), those made in insulting and abusive language, and those accusing the Courts of having exercised their judicial functions contrary to the law, are undermining the rule of law; while those alleging that Judicial independence has led to corruption and malpractice are scandalous and interfere with the administration of justice.

21.      The Progressive Lawyers Group considers that such baseless undermining of society’s confidence in the judicial process is unacceptable in a place where the rule of law is paramount.

22.      Further and notwithstanding whether parliamentary privilege is applicable, we regret that certain Legislative Council members have abused their position and authority to echo the same unfounded criticisms against the Courts.

23.      The Progressive Lawyers Group therefore calls on these recent attacks on the Judiciary to cease immediately.  As members of the legal profession, we call upon the Secretary for Justice, who, under the common law tradition and convention, as the ultimate defender of the judiciary, shoulders the duty to speak out clearly and forcefully against such outrageous and scurrilous attacks against the Courts.

Progressive Lawyers Group
 
31 March 2015

[1]    http://paper.wenweipo.com/2015/03/27/HK1503270006.htm

[2]    http://news.mingpao.com/ins/佔旺it顧問被控襲警判無罪/web_tc/article/20150206/s00001/ 1423199795291

[3]    https://thestandnews.com/society/到旺-購物-男子被控阻差不成立-警證供前後矛盾/

     http://specials.mingpao.com/cfm/News.cfm?SpecialsID=137&News=aab954df23f50540c8fe411732547722acdc4d61b2f6542c808c59792af6640d8a82

[4]    http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20150321/19084572

[5]    http://legalref.judiciary.gov.hk/lrs/common/search/search_result_detail_frame.jsp?DIS=97640 &QS=+&TP=JU

[6]    http://www.singpao.com/XW/gat/201503/t20150325_552540.html

[7]    http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20150328/19093278

[8]    http://www.chinadailyasia.com/hknews/2015-03/16/content_15239239.html

[9]    http://paper.takungpao.com/resfile/PDF/20140521/PDF/a4_screen.pdf

[10]   http://paper.wenweipo.com/2015/03/16/YO1503160006.htm

[11]   http://news.mingpao.com/ins1503251427242986568, http://news.mingpao.com/ins1503251427244063547

[12]   http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/news/art/20150325/19089348

[13]   http://www.ejinsight.com/20150325-patrick-ko-says-leung-has-done-well-by-taking-on-anti-beijing-forces/

[14]  https://www.thestandnews.com/politics/光復香港-明集會-抗議法庭-放生-佔領者/

[15] “The Literal translation of the group’s Chinese name is ‘Recover Hong Kong’”

[16]   http://hk.apple.nextmedia.com/realtime/news/20150328/53578692

[17]  https://www.facebook.com/cleanhk/posts/1627467500802590

 

 

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