1. 區域法院近日就七名警員襲擊佔中示威者的控罪作出判決及判刑之後，該案件的主審法官及整體司法機構均遭受一連串不合理的抨擊。 除了法官被蔑稱為「狗官」之外，亦有惡意批評暗示該案之主審法官及司法機構因政治立場而偏頗判案。
3. 在自由社會，市民有批評法官或法院判決的一般權利，但如市民在發表此等評論時蓄意或妄顧後果地達至以下目的: (1) 使法院或法官受到藐視或損害其威信；或(2)干擾司法工作，並構成干預司法公正或程序的妥善運作的實際風險，此等言論將會構成藐視法庭的罪行。
1. Following the District Court’s verdict and sentencing in relation to seven police officers’ assault upon an Occupy Central demonstrator, the judge in question and the judiciary in general have been subject to a barrage of unwarranted attacks. Aside from the more vitriolic terms such as calling judges “dogs”, there were sinister suggestions that the judge in this case and the judiciary are politically biased in their exercise of judicial power.
2. Judges have been subjected to such unwarranted attacks in the past two years, so to that extent the latest attacks are nothing new. On those past occasions, such attacks came only from cranks from various fringe groups. What makes the latest attacks particularly disturbing is that they have been led by societal leaders such as a famous drama producer who was a past recipient of the Hong Kong Government’s Medal of Honour, a Police union leader, and even a current sitting Legislative Council member.
3. Whilst, in a free society, one has the right generally to criticise judges and the Court, a comment or series of comments is an actionable contempt if such was calculated (either by actual or reckless intent) to (1) bring a Court or judge into contempt or lower their authority or (2) interfere with the administration of justice; and there is a “real risk” that the due administration of justice would be interfered with.
4. The Progressive Lawyers Group had spoken out against vicious statements seeking to undermine the public’s confidence in the judicial system (and thus potentially constituting contempt of Court) by way of statements dated 31 March 2015 and 24 February 2016. More importantly, the Secretary for Justice had repeatedly urged restraint during the past two years and in recent days against such comments, and threatening legal action while not having actually done so. Thus far, the Secretary for Justice’s pleas have fallen on deaf ears, and the perpetrators of such outrageous and, in our view, criminally contemptuous attacks on the judiciary are now becoming increasingly mainstream. There has even been monetary reward publicly offered for anyone who assaults the judge presiding over the case involving seven police officers’ assault upon an Occupy Central demonstrator.
5. Under Article 62 of the Basic Law, the Department of Justice is empowered to exercise its powers of criminal prosecution independently and without interference. The Progressive Lawyers Group does not seek to interfere with such independence. Nonetheless, in circumstances where the Secretary for Justice has a special role at common law as the defender of the judiciary, and his past calls for restraint have not only been ignored but becoming ever more openly flouted, one does wonder whether mere verbal urgings for moderation when commenting on judges and the judiciary are any longer sufficient to safeguard public confidence in the judiciary.
6. We trust the Secretary for Justice will take all necessary actions within his powers to ensure that the judiciary can exercise its judicial function free from any contemptuous attacks.