The Judiciary has announced that in view of the ongoing coronavirus, the General Adjourned Period (“GAP”), which has been in effect since January 29, will be extended for two weeks from March 23 (Monday) until April 5 (Sunday). The GAP will then be reviewed having regard to the prevailing public health situation.
Court hearings originally scheduled for March 24 (Tuesday) to April 5 (Sunday), will generally be adjourned. Only urgent and essential hearings shall be held as directed by the court. Parties will be notified if their hearings will be held as scheduled during these two weeks.
Other urgent and essential hearings will continue to be handled in accordance with the established mechanisms, including the Duty Judge system.
The Judiciary announced today (March 6) that plans are being made for orderly resumption of court proceedings upon the cessation of the General Adjourned Period (“GAP”) on March 22, if the prevailing public health situation permits, and that court registries will start to re-open stage by stage from next week, the first stage including the Court of Final Appeal Registry, the High Court Registry, the Probate Registry and the Competition Tribunal Registry on March 9.
The Judiciary has been making active plans to resume court proceedings and re-open its registries and offices since early March. In working out the detailed arrangements of resumption, the Judiciary has given due consideration to the following:
an orderly resumption of both registry business and court proceedings is of paramount importance;
a staggered and progressive approach is to be adopted to ensure orderly resumption; and
parties concerned, whether legally represented or litigants in person, will be given clear notification and sufficient lead time for preparation of their cases, regardless of whether the hearings are to be re-fixed or proceed as scheduled.
Gradual resumption of court proceedings
All hearings of the courts/tribunals originally scheduled between March 9 and March 22 have been generally adjourned. The courts will however continue to handle urgent and essential hearings and/or matters during this period. The updated list of urgent and essential hearings and matters is uploaded onto the Judiciary website for reference of court users and the public.
Re-opening of registries and offices
Court registries will be re-opened in stages between March 9 and 19. Special arrangements will be made during these two weeks for the registries to handle filing and other business in an orderly and effective manner. The details are set out as follows:
• March 9 (Monday):
Re-opening of the Court of Final Appeal Registry, High Court Registry, Clerk of Court’s Office, Probate Registry and Competition Tribunal Registry
• March 12 (Thursday):
Re-opening of Family Court Registry
• March 13 (Friday):
Re-opening of District Court Registry
• March 17 (Tuesday):
Re-opening of registries and offices of Lands Tribunal, Magistrates’ Courts, Coroner’s Court, Obscene Articles Tribunal
• March 19 (Thursday):
Re-opening of registries and offices of Labour Tribunal and Small Claims Tribunal (except the Information Centre)
The Canteen in the HCB and the Tuck Shop in the West Kowloon Law Court Building will remain closed until further notice having regard to public health considerations.
As regards offices providing services located in the judiciary premises but are operated by other Government Departments or outside organizations, court users may wish to enquire with the relevant operators direct for details relating to the re-opening of these offices.
Preventive and crowd management measures
Having struck a careful balance between public health considerations and the orderly reopening of registries with effect from March 9, the Judiciary will continue to put in place appropriate preventive and crowd management measures for the health protection of all people who enter and remain in the court premises. Court users are required to have their body temperature taken and wear a surgical mask before they are allowed to enter and remain in the court premises. The Judiciary will constantly review the situation and introduce any new measures as appropriate.
It is expected that there will be more court users visiting the courts, in particular the HCB starting from March 9. The Judiciary considers it important to put in place special arrangements to regulate the entry of court users into and inside the court premises. These measures will include queuing, the introduction of a ticketing and triage system to ensure efficient processing of applications, the provision of expanded registry areas (and additional manpower where appropriate) and designated entry and exit points to facilitate orderly people flow, etc. Detailed arrangements for different court registries in different court premises will be provided and uploaded onto the Judiciary website before their re-opening. Court users are strongly advised to check the updated information from the Judiciary website, and follow the advice of the Judiciary staff and security personnel when they attend for court business upon the re-opening of the court registries.
Enquiries and information update
From March 9, for general enquiries, the following hotlines will be operated from Monday to Friday from 8.45am to 1pm and 2pm to 5.30pm:
• General Information:
• Court of Final Appeal:
• High Court:
• District Court:
• Family Court:
• Lands Tribunal:
• Labour Tribunal:
• Small Claims Tribunal:
• Magistrates’ Courts:
• Bailiff Section:
• Court Language Section:
The Judiciary will continue to post updated information, including Daily Cause Lists, messages related to the Judiciary’s arrangements arising from public health considerations, and advice to court users visiting the courts during the GAP, on the Judiciary website (www.judiciary.hk). Court users are advised to check the website for updated information as necessary.
Members and guests attended a talk by Professor Peter Crisp on Thursday 16 January 2020 at Withers’ office. Professor Crisp presented his talk Supporting Litigants in Person – The English Experience through the lens of his work with Support Through Court a legal charity serving England and Wales.
Support Through Court offers assistance to litigants navigating the civil and family courts. Their aim is to help clients represent themselves to the best of their abilities with practical services, such as assistance with court forms, gathering evidence and information on how to present cases in court.
The number of litigants representing themselves in England and Wales rose significantly following extensive Legal Aid cuts in 2014. Limitations on legal aid within family proceedings saw a rise in private law applications initiated by litigants in person. In 2017 Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, told the House of Commons justice committee that the increase is ‘deeply worrying’.
It is vital that litigants in person have the tools they need to participate actively and constructively in the family law process. Equally, this represents particular challenges for lawyers and Judges working in the area.
The FLA thanks Professor Crisp for his informative talk and inspiration for better services for litigants in person.
Resources for litigants in person in Hong Kong SAR include: –
Having read Philosophy as an undergraduate, Peter switched to law qualifying as a Barrister at the Chancery Bar specialising in property and land law. Peter began his career in legal education at BPP Law School in 1997 as a lecturer on the Graduate Diploma in Law and Bar programmes. He served as Dean and CEO of BPP Law School from 2003 to 2017 and was a co-founder of BPP University. Peter is non-executive Chairman of Support Through Court, a major legal charity which supports litigants in person through the civil and family courts.
Members of the Executive Committee of the Hong Kong Family Law Association attended a sharing session with the Family Law Committee of the Law Society of Hong Kong, the Social Welfare Department and several NGOs on 18 December 2019.
The session was an information sharing exercise to promote greater understanding of stakeholders in the provision of new services to support families going through separation and divorce. These services will be provided by NGOs and designated Specialised Co-parenting Support Centres (SCSCs).
The SCSCs assist the parents to carry out parental responsibilities under the child-focused principles, strengthen parent-child connection and provide support to children affected by parental separation/divorce and family change to promote their healthy growth and development.
Services are offered free of charge and distributed throughout Hong Kong.
The NGOS involved are:-
Hong Kong Catholic Marriage Advisory Council (CMAC)
Hong Kong Family Welfare Society (HKFWS)
The Boys and Girls Clubs Association of Hong Kong (BGCA)
St. James’ Settlement
The SCSCs will assist parents to carry out their parental responsibilities aided by child-focused principle to strengthen parent-child connection and provide support to children affected by parental separation/divorce and family change to promote their healthy growth and development.
Specific services offered are as follows:
Co-parenting Counselling Service ‘CPC’
Parenting Co-ordination service
Supervised Contact & Exchange Service
Child focused co-parenting workshop & Talk
Therapeutic Group Course
Mutual Help Group and Volunteer Service
For further information you may visit the Social Welfare Department or speak to a family law professional
Members and guests attended the HKFLA Christmas Quiz on Wednesday 4 December 2019. We were honoured to have the Honourable Mr Justice Coleman to be our Court of Appeal. This event is one of the most popular in the Family Law Association Annual Calendars and was as ever well attended.
Our AGM was held on 4 November 2019. The meeting was followed with a talk by Mr. Grenville Cross on “Children and Protection from the Criminal Justice System”. Mr Cross is the Patron of Against Child Abuse and Honorary Consultant to the Child Protection Institute. His talk was focused on the Protection of Children from the Criminal Justice System.