Hong Kong’s District Court could be moved from Wan Chai to Caroline Hill Road in Causeway Bay in 2027 as the Legislative Council (LegCo) discussed the government’s proposal to build a new law courts building.
The proposal, which was first introduced in last year’s policy address, is estimated to cost HK$5.8 billion. If approved by the Finance Committee, the construction of the building could be completed in 2026, and put to use the following year.
Apart from the District Court, the new law courts building would also house the Family Court, currently in Wan Chai, and the Lands Tribunal, which is currently in Yau Ma Tei, featuring 70 courtrooms in total, as opposed to the current 53 courtrooms.
According to a document submitted to the LegCo by the Judiciary Administration, the largest criminal court room could fit 50 defendants, 100 legal representatives, 100 media representatives and members of the public.
In addition to more courtrooms, the proposal also suggested more lifts and equipment to facilitate remote hearings. The judiciary drafted “legislative amendments to provide the court with the flexibility to conduct remote hearings for suitable criminal proceedings.”
Senior Counsel Victor Dawes, chairperson of the Hong Kong Bar Association, said on Monday in the LegCo meeting that the association supported the proposal.
“I believe that the legal sector will all agree that the existing facilites are seriously insufficient, and cannot meet the demand of Hong Kong society, and compared to other neighbouring regions, we often talk about Singapore, we’re falling far behind,” said Dawes.
Increase in caseload
The Judiciary Administration said that it “has been facing unprecedented challenges arising from the upsurge of cases” linked to “social events” since the second quarter of 2020.
Following the 2019 protests and unrest and the implementation of the Beijing-imposed national security law, Hong Kong courts saw an increase in protest-related charges, as well as prosecutions under the security legislation and colonial-era sedition law.
A number of prominent pro-democracy figures, such as media tycoon Jimmy Lai, former lawmakers Albert Ho and Yeung Sum, as well as activists Gwyneth Ho and Tam Tak-chi, have attended trials at the city’s District Court, where the maximum penalty is seven years in prison.
Apart from an increased caseload from protest charges, the number of cases handled by the District Court, the Family Court, and the Lands Tribunals also increased by 14.5 per cent from 48,038 cases in 2015 to 55,010 cases in 2019.
Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit, Hong Kong Free Press is #PressingOn with impartial, award-winning, frontline coverage.