Hong Kong judiciary launches public consultation on remote hearings and bans audio recordings in court

Recording Hong Kong court cases without permission could become punishable by fines and imprisonment under proposals put forward by the judiciary in a three-month public consultation.

Anyone who tapes proceedings in the courtroom ‘without lawful permission or reasonable excuse’ faces a maximum fine of HK$50,000 and up to six months’ imprisonment, according to court documents. consultation released Thursday.

The Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong. Photo: GovHK.

Photography and sketches for publication purposes are currently prohibited under Section 7 of the Summary Offenses Ordinance, and offenders face a fine.

While audio or video recording of court proceedings is also currently prohibited without prior permission, there are no penalties for violations. Note taking will continue to be permitted.

“For the avoidance of doubt, note-taking is currently permitted and will continue to be permitted. For example, lawyers and journalists who take notes of proceedings and disseminate such information for their respective legitimate purposes should be permitted,” reads the documents.

The judiciary also plans to introduce another offense prohibiting the publication of unauthorized recordings of court proceedings. The proposed law would also cover distribution outside the court area, meaning that anyone posting a court recording, for example from their home, would be breaking the law.

Hong Kong judges. File photo: GovHK.

Violators would face a fine of HK$100,000 and five years in prison.

Remote Hearing

There are also plans to introduce remote hearings for some court sessions, but not for a defendant’s first appearance or for a plea, verdict or sentencing.

Some other criminal proceedings are also not suitable for remote hearings, according to the consultation documents.

“For example, for bail applications, which relate to the personal liberty of detainees, the court would jealously watch the proceedings to ensure that the applicant is not under any pressure or influence or use of force, etc. . upon his request for bail. The live audio link may not be viable,” he says.

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