Fair Trials International
9 April 2015
In this weeks guest post, Professor Simon N.M. Young discusses how a lack of access to lawyers for those arrested in Hong Kong is violating its own constitution, and prohibiting those detained the right to a fair trial.
There is a glaring gap in Hong Kong’s system of criminal legal aid. Public funds pay for solicitors and barristers to represent persons who have already been charged and brought before the courts. Little if any support exists for those who have yet to be charged. The Duty Lawyer Service provides a free legal advice scheme at district offices and a scheme of pre-recorded telephone messages. Neither are helpful to the suspect who has just been arrested, about to be interrogated by the police.
Suspects at police stations are provided with a notice informing them of their “rights” to “make private telephone calls to” a lawyer and to have one “present during any interview with the police” (Form Pol. 153). But if the suspect does not know of any lawyer and asks if free legal advice is available, the police will say no. On request, he will be provided with a list of the more than 8,000 practicing solicitors, who have no duty to provide pro bono legal advice. In practice, unless a suspect or his family or friends know of a lawyer to contact, the suspect will most likely undergo the police interview without the benefit of legal advice. This must surely be a violation of Article 35 of the Basic Law (Hong Kong’s constitution) which provides that persons have the right to “choice of lawyers for timely protection of their lawful rights and interests”. Without access to legal advice at this stage there can be no timely protection.... Click here to read the full article.