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HK Court of Final Appeal upholds decision to allow Tim Owen KC to defend Jimmy Lai

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In a judgment handed down today, 28th November 2022, the Court of Final Appeal of Hong Kong (Chief Justice Cheung, Ribeiro and Fok PJs) dismissed the Hong Kong Justice Secretary’s application for leave to appeal the ruling of the lower Courts granting ad hoc admission to Tim Owen KC to defend Jimmy Lai at his trial on charges contrary to the National Security Law due to commence on Thursday 1st December.

The Secretary for Justice sought to argue for a blanket ban on ad hoc admission of overseas counsel in NSL cases (subject to exceptional circumstances) which, according to the CFA, would effectively mean that the court should be deprived of its statutory discretion in relation to the admission of overseas Counsel in NSL cases. Criticising the Justice Secretary for failing to advance this radical argument before the lower Courts, the CFA held that no proper basis had been shown to permit the SJ to raise it for the first time before the CFA.

Within hours of the CFA’s ruling, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Government convened a press conference in which he announced that he would be submitting a report to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congess (“NPCSC”) in Beijing with a view to the NPCSC providing a re-interpretation of the HK Courts’ ruling on Tim Owen KC’s admission.  Meanwhile, Mr Lee indicated that the Department of Justice would seek an adjournment of Jimmy Lai’s trial pending a response from the NPCSC.

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