Public consultation on draft Courts (Remote Hearing) Bill launched
The following is issued on behalf of the Judiciary:
The Judiciary today (June 16) launched a three-month public consultation on the draft Courts (Remote Hearing) Bill. To illustrate how the Bill will operate upon enactment, the Judiciary has also prepared the draft Practice Directions and the draft Operational Guidelines, which set out the administrative and operational details for the conduct of remote hearing. Legal professionals, interested parties and members of the public are invited to offer their views on the draft Bill, draft Practice Directions and draft Operational Guidelines by September 15.
A spokesman for the Judiciary said, “At present, owing to legal impediments, most criminal cases cannot be heard remotely. For civil proceedings, while there is no question of legal impediments, there are no express provisions setting out how matters pertinent to a remote hearing shall be handled.
“The Bill seeks to provide a comprehensive legal framework concerning the application, operation and effect of remote hearings for court proceedings in Hong Kong. It provides a clear legal basis for Judges and Judicial Officers to order remote hearings at various levels of courts and tribunals where appropriate, having regard to all relevant factors, as well as the dual requirements of open justice and fair hearing.”
The major features of the Bill include:
- Details of the making of a remote hearing order, including safeguards for parties to ensure the fair disposal of remote hearings;
- Operation and legal effect of remote hearings;
- Safeguards for open justice in remote hearings; and
- Proposed new offences for the recording and publishing of remote and physical court hearings, as well as the broadcast of such hearings.
“While the Bill provides a general framework to enable the use of remote hearings for all types of court proceedings, we plan to adopt an incremental approach in implementation by excluding certain proceedings, such as criminal trials, and persons from the application of the Bill at the initial stage,” the spokesman said.
The draft Bill, draft Practice Directions and draft Operational Guidelines will be refined in light of the comments received during the consultation as appropriate before it is introduced to the Legislative Council.
The consultation document is available at the Judiciary’s website (www.judiciary.hk/remote_hearing_bill/consultation_doc/eng.pdf). Views can be submitted via:
Fax: 2501 4636
Mail: Planning and Development Division,
Room 802-808, 8/F, High Block,
Queensway Government Offices,
66 Queensway, Hong Kong