City should consider judges from outside traditional talent pools: former prosecutions chief

Hong Kong could consider recruiting overseas judges from India, Jamaica, or Singapore if needed, former director of Public Prosecutions of the HKSAR, Grenville Cross, said in a forum.

There have been occasional departures among the Court of Final Appeal’s overseas judges, but Cross noted that it was a sideshow when he gave his speech at the Bauhinia Culture International Symposium on Thursday.

“As things stand, there are ten overseas judges available to sit when required as the fifth member of the Court of Final Appeal, along with the Chief Justice and the three permanent judges, and this should be more than enough,” Cross said.

He added that if more overseas judges are required, “apart from the traditional jurisdictions of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, there is no reason why judges from elsewhere should not also be considered, from places like India, Jamaica or Singapore.”

As for the National Security Law, Cross stated that although some people imagined that there would be difficulties in assimilating it into the common law system, “the Court has provided impeccable guidance, and people now know exactly where they stand.” He added that the Court has developed a truly remarkable body of case law, and its judgments are regularly cited in other jurisdictions.

He added that under the National Security Law, the city must take all necessary measures to strengthen guidance, supervision, and regulation over matters concerning national security, including those relating to the media and the internet. “The need for legislation to control fake news is blindingly obvious.”

Cross said that when those involved in the social disorder of 2019-2020 set about trying to wreck Hong Kong, the city’s prosecutors found themselves under great strain. “Apart from the huge pressure of work, their decisions often attracted criticism, with allegations of political bias being not uncommon.”

He described that the protest movement did all it could “to demonize prosecutorial decisions and tried to give outsiders the impression that they were not free agents but Beijing puppets.”

“I was the Director of Public Prosecutions for over 12 years after 1997. I was never subjected to any type of pressure from Beijing or local officials to take particular decisions,” Cross added.