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Introduction

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Hong Kong's courts and its judiciary

The Judiciary is responsible for the administration of justice in Hong Kong. It hears all prosecutions and civil disputes. It is completely independent of the executive and legislative branches of the Government.

 

What is the structure of Hong Kong courts?

The Court of Final Appeal is the highest appellate court in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It has jurisdiction in respect of matters conferred on it by the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Ordinance, Cap. 484 and by any other law. It hears appeals on civil and criminal matters from the High Court (the Court of Appeal and the Court of First Instance).

The Court of Appeal hears appeals on all civil and criminal matters from the Court of First Instance and the District Court. It also hears appeals from Lands Tribunal and various Tribunals and Statutory Bodies.

The Court of First Instance has unlimited jurisdiction in both civil and criminal matters. It also hears appeals from Magistrates' Courts, the Small Claims Tribunal, the Obscene Articles Tribunal, the Labour Tribunal and the Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board. For criminal trials, judges of the Court of First Instance sit with a jury of seven (nine on the special direction of the judge).

The District Court hears civil disputes of a value over $50,000 but not more than $1 million. Its criminal jurisdiction is limited to 7 years' imprisonment.

The Family Court deals mainly with divorce cases and related matters such as maintenance and the welfare of children.

There are 7 Magistrates' Courts. They exercise criminal jurisdiction over a wide range of indictable and summary offences meriting up to 2 years' imprisonment and a fine of $100,000. However the court may impose sentences of up to 3 years' imprisonment where there are two or more indictable offences being dealt with at the same time. Indeed under some Ordinances a single offence may carry 3 years' imprisonment and a fine of $5 million.

The Lands Tribunal has jurisdiction to determine applications by landlords for possession of premises under the Landlord and Tenant (Consolidation) Ordinance, Cap. 7 or under the Common Law. The Tribunal also deals with cases arising from disputes in relation to building management. The Tribunal also hears applications for the determination of compensations caused by land resumption and payable by the Government because of public developments pursuant to the relevant ordinances, and determine appeals against the assessment of rateable value / government rent or market value of property under the Housing Ordinance. The Tribunal can determine applications made by majority owners of a land for the sale of the land for redevelopment purpose under the Land (Compulsory Sale for Redevelopment) Ordinance, Cap. 545.

The Labour Tribunal deals with labour disputes. There is no upper limit on the amount of claim, but the Tribunal only hears cases which the amount of claim exceeds $8,000 for at least one of the claimants in a claim or which the number of claimants in the claim exceeds 10. Hearings are informal and no legal representation is allowed.

The Small Claims Tribunal hears civil claims within its jurisdiction of up to $50,000. Hearings are informal and no representation by lawyers is allowed.

The Obscene Articles Tribunal determines and classifies whether or not an article or other matter publicly displayed is obscene or indecent.

The Coroner's Court conducts investigations and if necessary holds inquests into the deaths.

The Juvenile Court hears charges against children or young persons under the age of 16, except where the charge is one of homicide. It may also make care or protection orders in respect of children or juveniles. It sits in the Eastern, Kowloon City, Tsuen Wan, Fanling and Tuen Mun Magistrates' Courts.

 

Court Registries and enquiries

Each court has its own registry which is responsible for filing documents, listing cases for hearing, and providing support to judges and judicial officers. The addresses and enquiry telephone numbers of these registries can be found here.

 

Court Supporting Services

Bailiff Section

After you have obtained a court judgment for payment of money to you, you can apply for its enforcement by Court Bailiffs if the judgment is not complied with. The address of the Bailiff 's Offices can be found here.

 

Legal Reference and Library Section

The total collection of the Judiciary Library 184,000 volumes basically of common law materials housed mainly in the High Court Library, Court of Final Appeal Library and District Court Library. Many minor collections are located in the chambers, Magistrates' Courts and Tribunals. More than 61,000 volumes of books and serials are located in the High Court Library and about 8,000 and 10,000 volumes are respectively in the other two libraries at the Court of Final Appeal and the District Court. The Judiciary Library provides legal reference and information services, photocopying and other services to the judges, staff of the Judiciary, members of the legal profession and law students.

Application for the use of library facilities may be made to the High Court Library.

Opening Hours

High Court Library
Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Saturdays 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon

District Court Library
Mondays to Fridays 8:50 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Saturdays Closed

Court of Final Appeal Library
Mondays to Fridays 8:50 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Saturdays Closed

All libraries close on Sundays and public holidays.

Library card holders may use the High Court Library and the District Court Library. They may use the Court of Final Appeal Library on the days when their cases are being heard in the Court of Final Appeal.

Enquiry telephone numbers
High Court Library: 2825 4464
District Court Library: 2582 4062
Court of Final Appeal Library: 2123 0044

 

Court Language Section

The Court Language Section in the main provides interpreting services for those who are not conversant with Chinese or English in all court proceedings in Hong Kong. The Section is also responsible for certifying the translation of documents for use in court proceedings in Hong Kong. For such certification service, it is provided free for criminal cases, but a prescribed fee is charged for civil cases. The address of the Court Language Section can be found here.

(The Court Language Section provides certification service for the translation of documents/exhibits used in court proceedings in all levels of courts of the Hong Kong SAR. Certification guidelines and application form can be found here.)

 

Press and Public Relations Office

Apart from undertaking media related work, this office arranges visits to the Judiciary by local organisations and overseas visitors. It also prepares publications and produces videos that introduce the work and procedures of various courts and tribunals. Most of these publications are available free in court buildings. Contents of the publications and some videos are also uploaded on the Judiciary website . For details of visit arrangement, please contact the office.

 

General Enquiries

You can obtain general information or make enquiries about court services by calling hotline.

 

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