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大律師公會主席戴啟思 法律年度開啟典禮演講辭全文

2021/1/11 — 17:00

戴啟思

戴啟思

【編按:香港大律師公會主席戴啟思在今日(1 月 11 日)2021 年法律年度開啟典禮上發表的演講辭全文】

終審法院首席法官、各位法官及裁判官、律政司司長、律師會會長、尊貴的嘉賓、女士們及先生們:

1. 我希望就獨立這題目向大家致辭。當然,我所指的是《基本法》下的司法獨立性,以及有時會被忽視的律師獨立性,而律師獨立性正是維持司法獨立性所必需的。

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2. 在這艱難的日子裏,如果香港特別行政區要顯示自己為人民可遵隨其內心、宣稱法治是得以維護的地方,上述的兩種獨立性都是不可或缺。

3. 獨立的司法機構的功能是甚麼呢?你可以在《基本法》裏找到答案。它是根據第 85條,能行使香港特別行政區司法權的政府機關。

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4. 司法機構在行使其司法權時,必須「獨立」(independently) 和「不受任何干涉」(free from any interference)。這意味著行政機關和立法機關不能篡奪司法機構的權力,也不能分享其行使權,更不能建議法院在處理特定或某一類案件中如何行使該權力。

5. 當然,司法權的精髓在於:司法機構有責任對所有涉及法律權利和義務的案件,作出決定性的判決,不論這些案件涉及個人抑或是包括政府在內的公共機構。

6. 除了全國人民代表大會常務委員會擁有解釋權的特別情況外,終審法院於行使其司法權時,其頒下的判決是最終裁決,所有在司法管轄權下的人和機構都必須遵守法院的裁決。

7. 司法權賦予於法官,他們是從一個獨立、不以任何方式歸屬於政府的行政機關的法律專業中招募而來。假若我們沒有擁有獨立思想的律師,你將沒有擁有獨立思想的法官。

8. 大律師專業的獨立性意味著大律師要勇於抗辯,在必要時要勇於發言。這亦意味著大律師將接手不受歡迎的案件,頑強地堅持下去,並不會被別人對他們或其客戶所
作出的負面意見所左右。大律師的《行為準則》不僅鼓勵這些特質,而且還規定這些特質為職業操守所需。

9. 大律師公會作為一個團體,要求其成員致力捍衛大律師專業的榮譽,以及維護司法獨立性,這些都載於大律師公會的成立文件的宗旨和目標中。

10.當媒體批評法官的決定時,這要求正是驅使大律師公會發聲的原因。

11.我說的不是對法官和判決的嚴厲批評,因為當批評能暴露一些嚴重的缺點時,這些批評是完全合理的,並可能會產生一些有益的影響;我所指的是,一些無非因法官碰巧以一種方式而不是另一種方式來決定案件,或因該結果不符合某政治或道德議程,而指責法官偏頗或不誠實的無理抨擊。

12.這樣的抨擊無疑是一種毒藥。它破壞了人們對司法機構的信心,使司法誓言看似變得蕩然無存。司法誓言要求法官和裁判官「盡忠職守,奉公守法,公正廉潔,以無懼、無偏、無私、無欺之精神,維護法制,主持正義,為香港特別行政區服務」。

13.如在一宗案件中作出這樣的抨擊,而該抨擊是出於希望或期望能影響法官的決定,這樣的抨擊有時會構成藐視法庭。

14.此外,這樣對法官的抨擊是卑劣的,因為抨擊者知道法官無法作出回應。

15.儘管大律師公會可能會對這些抨擊提出反對,但它不能將對司法獨立作出無理攻擊的作者和出版商繩之於法。在這種情況下,確保該些作者和出版商會負上法律責任是律政司司長的工作。

16.律政司司長在這方面的工作是困難的。她當然要接受人民有權批評法官,即使該些批評是不成熟,或是以冒犯性語言所作出的。

17.她亦知道法官並不是畏縮的人,以及藐視法庭的法律原則並不是為了對司法制度阿諛奉承。然而,司法上的寬容亦是有限度的。

18.美國最高法院大法官休戈·布萊克 (Hugo Black) 在一宗 1941 年的案件這樣說過:「認為可以通過使法官免受公開批評來贏得對司法機構的尊重,這個假設錯誤地評估了美國輿論的特質。 ......僅出於維護法官的尊嚴為目的而強加的沉默,無論有多有限,都可能會引起怨恨、懷疑和輕蔑,而不是增強尊重。」

19.儘管法官對於這些抨擊的個人感受無關重要,但這關乎到另一個法律原則:司法機構作為一個團體的完整性(integrity)。

20.眾所周知,司法機構的權力比其他的政府機關為弱。《基本法》第四章中對司法機構的職能、職責和權力都已作了描述。

21.司法機構既不能指揮軍隊或警察,亦不能向持相同意見的政治選民尋求支持。它必須通過對法治的承諾來贏得人民的尊重,從而在憲政秩序中展現其價值,這意味著它要「以無懼、無偏、無私、無欺的精神主持正義」。

22.當社會上對法官有永無休止的抨擊,無理地指責他們在政治上有所偏頗、不稱職或不誠實時,這不是對慷慨就義的法官造成損害,而是損害司法機構的本身。

23.如果對這些抨擊不採取任何行動,它將破壞人們對法院的信任和尊重,司法工作的執行亦將慢慢消失。

24.我必須引述澳洲高等法院在 1983 年的 Gallagher v Durack 一案,來解釋為什麼我們有時需要嚴斥對於法院或法官的抨擊。「法律努力調和兩個原則,而每個原則都具有其根本的重要性,但在某些情況下,它們似乎會互相抵觸:一個原則是言論自由,它使每個人都有權就包括司法在內的公共重要事項真誠地發表評論,即使評論是坦率、錯誤或剛愎自用;另一個原則是:『為了維護公眾對司法的信心,有必要採取某種特定和即時的方法,來壓制對法院的無理指責,因為如果繼續下去,則其權威有可能受到損害』(根據 Dixon J. 在 R. v Dunbabin 一案;Ex parte Williams (1935) 53 CLR,第 447 頁)。 法律的權威取決於公眾的信任。為了穩定社會,任何人不應對法庭或法官的無私或不偏不倚進行毫無根據的攻擊,以動搖公眾的信心。」

25.我在 2005 年至 2007 年擔任大律師公會的主席,現在看來好像已經時代久遠了。

26.在該兩年的任期,我不必就一些看來如澳洲高等法院所述的「對法庭或法官的無私或不偏不倚進行毫無根據的攻擊」發表任何言論。

27.我將在數週內結束目前第三年任主席的職務。回顧過去一年,令我驚訝的是,大律師公會共發表了十多個關於該主題的聲明。

28.我希望人們能明智以對,明白對司法機構作出不知廉恥的攻擊是無濟於事的。他們侵蝕社會對法律的尊重,而對法律的尊重正是維持司法獨立所需的。

29.司法獨立是一件瑰寶,如果沒有司法獨立,香港將一無所有,而人民亦將離它而去。

30.我祝大家牛年一切順利。

Speech Given at the Opening of the Legal Year, 11 January 2021 by the Chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association

Philip J. Dykes, S.C.

Chief Justice, Judges and Magistrates, Secretary for Justice, President of the Law Society, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
1. I wish to address you on the subject of independence. Of course, I mean judicial independence under the Basic Law and sometimes overlooked lawyers' independence, which is necessary for judicial independence.

2. Both types of independence are necessary if the HKSAR is to hold itself out as a place where, in these difficult days, people can put their hands on their hearts and say that the Rule of Law is maintained.

3. What is the function of an independent judiciary? You find the answer in the Basic Law. It is the branch of government that wields the HKSAR's judicial power under Article 85.

4. When the Judiciary uses judicial power, it must do so 'independently, free from any interference'. These words mean that the Executive and Legislative branches cannot usurp the power, or share in its exercise, or suggest how the courts use the power in a particular case or class of cases.

5. Of course, the essence of judicial power is the duty to render dispositive judgments in all cases concerning legal rights and obligations, whether those concern private parties or public bodies, including the Government.

6. Subject only to the extraordinary power of interpretation vested in the SCNPC, when the Court of Final Appeal exercises judicial power, its judgements are final. Court rulings must be obeyed by all persons and bodies subject to the jurisdiction of the courts.

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7. Judicial power is vested in the judges recruited, by and large, from an independent legal profession that is not beholden to the executive branch of Government in any way. Without independent-minded lawyers, you will not have independent-minded judges.

8. Independence at the Bar means being bold in defence and, where necessary, bold in aggression. It means barristers will take on unpopular causes and stick doggedly with them and not being swayed by negative opinions about them or their clients. The Bar's Code of Conduct does not merely encourage these attributes; it requires them as a matter of professional conduct.

9. The qualities that the Bar Association demands from its members are also required of it as an institution. The Bar Association is committed to the defence of the Bar's honour and upholding the Judiciary's independence. These are aims and objectives written into the Bar Association's foundation documents.

10. This requirement is the reason why the Bar speaks out when the media vilifies judges for their decisions.

11. I am not referring to harsh criticism of judges and their judgements, because sometimes that is wholly justified and can have beneficial effects if some serious shortcoming is exposed. I am talking about attacks that impute partiality or bad faith on the judges’part for no reason other than that they happened to decide a case one way rather than another. Or because the result does not fit a political or moral agenda.

12. Attacks like this are pure poison. They undermine people's confidence in the Judiciary because they set at nought the judicial oath. This oath requires judges and magistrates to 'serve the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region conscientiously, dutifully, in full accordance with the law, honestly and with integrity, safeguard the law and administer justice without fear or favour, self-interest or deceit.'

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13. They can sometimes constitute a contempt of court if made when a case is before the court, and the attack is made in the hope or expectation that it will affect a judge's decision.

14. Attacks on judges are, moreover, cowardly because the authors know that judges cannot answer back.

15. Although the Bar Association may protest, what it cannot do is bring to book the authors and publishers of unprincipled attacks on judicial independence. Assuring accountability in these circumstances is primarily the job of the Secretary for Justice.

16. The Secretary for Justice has an unenviable task here. She accepts, of course, that people have a right to criticise judges even if the criticisms are half-baked and couched in offensive language.

17. She knows too that judges are not shrinking violets and that the law of contempt does not exist to massage bruised judicial egos. However, there are limits to judicial forbearance.

18. The US Supreme Court Justice, Hugo Black, put it well in a 1941 case:

“The assumption that respect for the Judiciary can be won by shielding judges from published criticism wrongly appraises the character of American public opinion. ... an enforced silence, however limited, solely in the name of preserving the dignity of the bench, would probably engender resentment, suspicion, and contempt much more than it would enhance respect.”
19. Although individual judicial sensibilities are neither here nor there, there is another legal principle in play: the integrity of the Judiciary as an institution.

20. The Judiciary is, notoriously, weaker than the other branches of Government whose functions, duties and powers are described in Chapter IV Basic Law.

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21. The Judiciary commands no army or police force nor can it appeal to a sympathetic political electorate for support. It must demonstrate its worth in the constitutional order by commanding the people's respect through its commitment to the Rule of Law, which means, essentially, administering justice 'without fear or favour, self-interest or deceit.'

22. When there is a creeping barrage of baseless criticism that supposes that judges are politically biased, incompetent or dishonest, the damage is done not so much to the judges, who have broad backs, but to the Judiciary as an institution.

23. If nothing is done about attacks, they will undermine confidence and respect for the courts and the administration of justice will slowly evaporate.

24. I can do no better than to recount the High Court of Australia's explanation in a 1983 case called Gallagher v Durack of why it is sometimes necessary to come down hard on speech critical of the courts or judges.

"The law endeavours to reconcile two principles, each of which is of cardinal importance, but which, in some circumstances, appear to come in conflict. One principle is that speech should be free, so that everyone has the right to comment in good faith on matters of public importance, including the administration of justice, even if the comment is outspoken, mistaken or wrong-headed. The other principle is that "it is necessary for the purpose of maintaining public confidence in the administration of law that there shall be some certain and immediate method of repressing imputations upon
Courts of justice which, if continued, are likely to impair their authority" (per Dixon J. in R. v. Dunbabin; Ex parte Williams (1935) 53 CLR, at p 447). The authority of the law rests on public confidence, and it is important to the stability of society that the confidence of the public should not be shaken by baseless attacks on the integrity or impartiality of courts or judges."

25. I was Chairman of the Bar from 2005 to 2007, in what seems a different age.

26. In my two years' service, I did not have to issue any statements censoring what appeared to be, in the words of the Australian High Court, 'baseless attacks on the integrity or impartiality of courts or judges.'

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27. I end my current three-year stint as Chairman in a couple of weeks. Looking back, I find to my surprise that the Bar Council has issued about a dozen statements on the topic in that time.

28. I hope that common sense prevails and that people see that conscienceless attacks on the Judiciary do no one any good. They eat away at society's respect for the Law, which is necessary for judicial independence.

29. And without judicial independence, a pearl of great price, we might as well pack up our bags and steal away for Hong Kong is nothing without it.

30. I conclude by wishing that you enjoy better times in the coming year of the Ox.

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