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A Brief Introduction of the Legal Departments in Hong Kong 香港司法機構簡介

The Rule of Law [1]


Hong Kong is a society governed by the rule of law, which is considered to be the cornerstone of a civilised, safe and orderly society in Hong Kong. Then, what is the rule of law?


According to a 2008 publication “The Legal System in Hong Kong” by the Department of Justice, the rule of law refers to the fundamental legal principles that govern the exercise of power in the HKSAR. Under the Hong Kong Government system, no person (including the Chief Executive) may do anything that would constitute a legal wrong or affect the personal liberty of another unless there is a legal basis for doing so. If the person doing the act cannot show that there is a legal basis for the act, the person affected may have recourse to the courts, which may rule that the act is invalid and has no legal effect and order that the person affected be compensated for his or her loss. This principle of the rule of law is known as the principle of legality.


Legality and equality before the law are two essential elements of the rule of law. Article 25 of the Basic Law guarantees that all Hong Kong residents shall be equal before the law, and that no one is above the law. Furthermore, in accordance with Articles 82 and 85 of the Basic Law, the HKSAR shall be vested with independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, free from any interference.


Magistrates‘ Court


Magistrates handle criminal trials for both indictable and summary offThe maximum sentence in Magistrates’ Court is normally 2 years imprisonment and $100,000 fine. However, up to 3 years imprisonment may be imposed when two or more indictable offences are dealt with at the same time, while under some Ordinances, a single offence may carry 3 years imprisonment and a fine of $5 million.


Minor offences such as hawking, traffic contraventions and littering are heard in the Magistrates' Courts by Special Magistrates. Special Magistrates cannot impose a prison sentence and the normal maximum fine is $50,000 except where a greater sum is specifically provided for in any ordinance relating to the offence. Meanwhile, offences that are more indictable, are often referred to the District Court or the High Court.

The District Court


The District Court has both criminal and civil jurisdiction. Moreover, it may try all serious criminal cases except murder, manslaughter and rape. For criminal jurisdiction, it deals with indictable offences transferred to it from the Magistrates’ Courts. For civil jurisdiction, the District Court deals with cases such as contract and tort.


The District Court hears civil disputes of a value over $75,000 but not more than $3 million. Its criminal jurisdiction is limited to 7 years’ imprisonment and the trial judge has the final decision as to whether a case is conducted in Chinese or English.


High Court [2]


The High Court tries both cases of the first trials and appeals. It is constituted of two parts, the Court of First Instance and the Court of Appeal. The Court of First Instance handles criminal and civil cases. Serious criminal offences like murder and rape are tried here. Civil crimes such as tort and breach of contract are also tried in the High Court. If the defendant disagrees with the previous verdict, he is entitled to apply for an appeal and to review the verdict once again. If the defendant is still dissatisfied with the result of the appeal, he can apply for an appeal again in the Court of Final Appeal.


The Court of Final Appeal [3]


The court was established on 1 July 1997, upon the commencement of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Ordinance (Cap.484). It replaced the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London as the highest appellate court in Hong Kong after 30 June 1997.


The Court of Final Appeal is the final appellate court within the court system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It hears appeals on civil and criminal matters from the High Court (the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance).The court hears appeals involving important questions of law, including in particular points of public and constitutional importance, or where leave to appeal has otherwise been granted for some special reason.



法治 [4]


香港是一個法治社會,法治亦認為是保障香港文明、安全和有序社會的基石,那什麼是法治?

根據2008年律政司出版之刊物《香港的法律制度》,法治 (The Rule of Law) 是指規限在香港特區行使權力的一些基本法律原則。在香港政府系統內,任何人(包括行政長官)除非有法律依據,否則不可以作出會構成法律過失或會影響他人人身自由的行為,如果作出行為的人不能提出其行為的法律根據,受影響的人可訴諸法院,法院可能裁決該行為無效,不具法律效力,並下令受影響的人可獲賠償損失。這方面法治的原則稱為合法性原則。合法性和法律面前人人平等是法治的兩項基本要素,《基本法》第二十五條中保障法律面前人人平等,沒有人能凌駕法律之上。此外,依照《基本法》第八十二條及第八十五條,香港特別行政區享有獨立的司法權和終審權,不受任何干涉。


裁判法院


在裁判法院進行聆訊的控罪範圍廣泛,包括簡易程序罪行和可公訴罪行。裁判法院的最高刑罰一般為監禁2年和罰款10萬元。但當法庭同時處理兩項或以上可公訴罪行時,裁判官可判處最高3年的刑期。就某些條例而言,單一罪行可判處監禁3年和罰款500萬元。有關違例小販、交通違例事項和拋棄垃圾等輕微罪行,均由特委裁判官在裁判法院審理。特委裁判官不能判處監禁刑罰,而一般罰款的上限為5萬元,除非在任何其他條例中明確訂定一個較高的金額。一些較嚴重的可公訴罪行,通常會轉介至區域法院,或高等法院進行聆訊。


區域法院

區域法院具有刑事和民事司法管轄權,可審理除謀殺、誤殺和強姦外的所有嚴重刑事案件。在刑事司法管轄權方面,區域法院會處理由裁判法院移交的公訴罪行。在民事司法管轄權方面,區域法院會處理合約和侵權等糾紛。區域法院會處理涉及款項7萬5千元以上、但不超過300萬元的民事訴訟,而刑事案件中,區域法院法官的判刑上限是7年監禁,而且案件可以用英文或中文審訊,由主審法官作出最後決定。

高等法院 [5]

高等法院可審理初審的案件以及上訴,有原訴法庭和上訴法庭兩部分。原訟法庭處理民事和刑事案件。嚴重的刑事罪行例如謀殺、強姦等都會在此進行審判。民事案件例如侵權、違約也會在高等法院進行聆訊。如果被告不認同之前的裁判,他有權提出上訴,要求重新檢視判決。如果被告對上訴結果仍然不認同,他可以選擇到終審法院再次上訴。


終審法院 [6]


1997年6月30日後,終審法院取代了倫敦樞密院的司法委員會,成為本港最高的上訴法院。

終審法院於1997年7月1日《香港終審法院條例》(第484章)生效之日成立。終審法院是香港特別行政區法庭制度內的最終上訴法院。處理針對高等法院(上訴法庭及原訟法庭)的民事及刑事判決而作出的上訴及有關事項。尤其包括論點具有關乎公眾及憲法的重要性的上訴或因某些其他特別的理由而獲給予上訴許可的上訴。


Glossary:

初審

First trial

原訴法庭

the Court of First Instance

上訴法庭

the Court of Appeal

刑事罪行

Criminal Offence

侵權

Tort

違約

Breach of Contract

裁決

Verdict

《香港的法律制度》

"The Legal System in Hong Kong"

律政司

the Department of Justice

法律過失

Legal wrong

法律根據

Legal basis

訴諸法院

Recourse to the courts

不受任何干涉

Free from any interference

簡易

Summary

可公訴的

Indictable

Contributed by:

WU Man Yan, Evelyn

LAM Pui Yi, Michelle

LAM Tsz Yau, Eunice

Ng Wing Kiu, Vicky

KUAN Chi Hang, Eddie


Edited by:

Dr Janice Pan


References

“District Court”. The Judiciary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. https://www.judiciary.hk/en/court_services_facilities/dc.html


Hong Kong Judiciary: Court of FInal Appeal. (2017). Hong Kong Judiciary. Retrieved from https://www.hkcfa.hk/en/about/overview/index.html


Hong Kong Judiciary: High Court. (2018). Hong Kong Judiciary. Retrieved from https://www.judiciary.hk/en/court_services_facilities/hc.html


The rule of law”. The Department of Justice. https://www.doj.gov.hk/tc/our_legal_system/rule_of_law.html


“What is the Structure of Hong Kong Courts?”. The Judiciary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. https://www.judiciary.hk/ en/about_us/guide.html#1


香港司法機構:高等法院。(2018)。香港司法機構。取自https://www.judiciary.hk/en/court_services_facilities/hc.html


 

1. “The rule of law”. (2020). The Department of Justice. Retrieved from https://www.doj.gov.hk/en/our_legal_system/rule_of_law.html

2. Hong Kong Judiciary: High Court. (2018). Hong Kong Judiciary. Retrieved from https://www.judiciary.hk/en/court_services_facilities/hc.html

3. Hong Kong Judiciary: Court of FInal Appeal. (2017). Hong Kong Judiciary. Retrieved from

https://www.hkcfa.hk/en/about/overview/index.html

4. 香港的法律制度:法治。(2020)。律政司。取自https://www.doj.gov.hk/tc/our_legal_system/rule_of_law.html

5. 香港司法機構:高等法院。(2018)。香港司法機構。取自https://www.judiciary.hk/en/court_services_facilities/hc.html

6. 香港司法機構:終審法院 (2017)。香港司法機構。取自

https://www.hkcfa.hk/en/about/overview/index.html



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