The highly regarded, independent, fair and just judiciary system is one of the cornerstones for the success of Hong Kong as the leading international financial and trading centre in the world. Even after the return of sovereignty back to Mainland China on 1st July 1997, Hong Kong has been practising the English common law system. Judicial precedents, formed by decided cases in the United Kingdom, locally in Hong Kong and in the Commonwealth, are often referred to and recognized by the Hong Kong Courts.
In addition, there are several tribunals specializing in their respective particular fields, like the Lands Tribunal, the Small Claims Tribunal, the Labour Tribunal, The Obscene and Publication Tribunal, and the Coroners' Tribunal.
By ranking of ascending seniority, the Hong Kong court system is as follows:
Litigation is divided into 2 main categories: Civil and Criminal Cases.
Civil Cases involves disputes between individual persons/organizations against the other individual/organisations. The litigant who commences civil claim is called "Plaintiff" . The litigant who is being sued is called "Defendant". Sometimes, Government Departments can be made either the Plaintiffs or Defendants.
Civil cases, depending on the quantum or amount of the claims, are split and allocated/pursued in different court venues :-
Small Claim Tribunal, where the claim amount falls below HK$75,000;
District Court, where the claim amount ranges between HK$75,000 and HK$3,000,000;
The Court of First Instance of The High Court, where the claim amount is over HK$3,000,000.
Criminal Cases are concerned with violations and/or breaches of certain legislation or common principles of law. Typical examples are theft, robbery, deception, murder etc.
Traffic offenses are grouped within criminal cases, though they are more commonly called "statutory offences". The party representing the Government is called "The prosecution". An individual or organisation being charged is called "The defendant".
Criminal cases are first dealt with in the Magistrates' Court. For more serious offences, the Magistrates' Court will, depending on the likely penalties, commit the defendant to higher level of court : The District Court or The Court of First Instance of the High Court. A defendant who is acquitted of the charge can apply to claim for legal costs wasted away in the criminal proceedings under Costs in Criminal Cases Ordinance, Chapter 492 of the Laws of Hong Kong.
If you encounter any problem or if you contemplate litigation soon, please make sure that you seek competent legal advice at the earliest opportunity. You are welcome to seek legal support from us to help you with your case(s). Our solicitor, Mr. Raymond TSE, who has been dealing with court litigations for over 30 years, will be able to assess the pros and cons of all the available evidence and merits of your case, and give you proper legal advice accordingly.