Update: Court denies media request for court document

Jul 16, 2014

by Doreen Weisenhaus with contributions by Rick Glofcheski and Yan Mei Ning (Expanded Second Edition, Hong Kong University Press 2014)

July 15, 2014 — A Hong Kong court has denied a media request for access to a court document in the  corruption trial of former top government official Rafael Hui. A representative for Bloomberg News requested the court’s permission to review two “fund flow charts” created by Hong Kong prosecutors to assist the jury in understanding evidence being presented in court. In rejecting the request,  Justice Andrew Macrae acknowledged that the issue was a novel one in Hong Kong with no relevant Hong Kong legal authority.

Justice Macrae declined to apply a 2012 landmark decision in the UK Court of Appeal (Guardian News and Media Ltd v City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court [2013] QB 618), which established  a common law right under the “open justice principle” for the media and the public to obtain documents used in court cases. (See p 72, Hong Kong Media Law). Following the Guardian decision in which the newspaper obtained access to various documents used in an extradition, the UK Judiciary issued a new criminal practice direction (Part 5B, “Access to information held by the Court”) that instructed courts to provide the opening notes, written submissions and skeleton arguments used by counsel in the criminal courts to journalists who want them. Other documents and information can be provided to the public or journalists at the discretion of the courts under the terms of the new Criminal Practice Directions, which came into force October 7, 2013.

The Hong Kong decision here: HKSAR v Hui & others  HCCC98/2013 (15 July 2014)

The Guardian’s court victory is an important step towards transparency,” David Banistar, The Guardian, 3 April 2012