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Judge Henry Litton highlights ‘total farce’ of Hong Kong’s legal system in new book

Former Court of Final Appeal judge, Henry Litton, dismissed as “total farce” the recent application for judicial review regarding the new high-speed rail terminus, highlighting it as an example of how Hong Kong’s judiciary is increasingly out of touch with its constitutional role.

Former Court of Appeal judge Henry Litton launches his new book at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC
Former Court of Appeal judge Henry Litton launches his new book at the FCC. Photo: Sarah Graham/FCC

Speaking as he launched his book, ‘Is the Hong Kong Judiciary Sleepwalking to 2047?’ at the FCC, Litton said the case before the judge last year was merely four applications for leave to start judicial review proceedings, but had turned into “an elaborate charade signifying nothing except the vacuousness of court proceedings”. At its conclusion, the judgment was “massive – 56 pages”, said Litton, adding that such “such an approach to the case defies common sense”.

Litton, now an honorary professor at the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law, said had the discipline of law been observed in this case, a judge would have heard it in chambers, and his first consideration should have been what practical remedy was possible.

“The common law is an effective legal system because it has always been a pragmatic one,” Litton said. “Its focus is on remedies and on practical results… But slowly, insidiously, over the past 20-odd years, that system has lost its effectiveness. Court proceedings tend to be dominated by lawyers’ arguments. The real issues get swept away in the flood of words. Common sense is submerged.”

Litton’s book, illustrated by cartoonist Harry Harrison, is a series of essays highlighting similar examples of what he feels are misinterpretations of the role of the judiciary.

Watch the talk here.




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