For discussion
on 12 February 1998


Subhead 001 Salaries

Members are invited to recommend to Finance Committee the creation of the following permanent post -

1 Deputy Principal Legal Aid Counsel
(DL2) ($110,000 - $116,800)


The Legal Aid Department (LAD) needs an additional Deputy Principal Legal Aid Counsel (DPLAC) to handle the increasing volume and complexity in legal aid cases.


2. The Director of Legal Aid (DLA) proposes to create a permanent post of DPLAC (DL2) in the Litigation Division to oversee civil litigation services.


New challenges for the LAD

3. The LAD is headed by the DLA (DL6) and comprises three

divisions, namely the Departmental Administration Division, Application and Processing Division and Litigation Division. Each Division is headed by a Deputy Director at DL3 level, who reports to the DLA. There are altogether 13 directorate officers in the Department. We set out at Enclosure 1 the existing organisation of the department. This structure was established in September 1989. Since then, there have been significant changes affecting its operation -

  1. Increase in workload

    The number of applications and certificates granted, in particular for civil legal aid, has increased significantly over the past few years. The number of civil legal aid applications increased from 17 294 in 1992 to 25 486 in 1996 by almost 50%. In the same period, the number of civil legal aid certificates granted increased from 5 378 to 9 134, an increase of 70%. In criminal legal aid, applications increased from 4 225 to 4 638 (+10%) and the number of legal aid certificates granted from 2 708 to 2 919 (+8%). We set out details of the statistics in Table A in Enclosure 2. This increase in workload has created difficulties in processing applications and monitoring assigned-out cases effectively, as well as in the supervision of in-house litigation work.

  2. Growing sensitivity and complexity in legal aid cases

    The social and political development of Hong Kong in recent years has created new demands for legal aid services. Cases of judicial reviews involving considerable public interest require a higher level of expertise and quite often the personal attention of the LAD's senior directorate. The amount of damages awarded by the court in personal injuries cases is also increasing. This has led to insurers litigating vigorously with advice from teams of experts and Senior Counsel. Senior directorate officers of the LAD need to be more substantially involved in these cases.

  3. Need to further enhance professionalism

    Due to staff turnover and new posts being created, the average number of years of professional experience of officers in the Legal Aid Counsel rank has reduced from seven in 1994 to four in 1997. We have stepped up training to strengthen the professional knowledge and skill of the less experienced staff. Nevertheless, we will need sufficient directorate officers to supervise these staff and provide further guidance.

Litigation Division

4. At present, the Litigation Division comprises four sections: namely the Criminal Section, Personal Injury Litigation Section, Family Litigation Section and Insolvency Costing and Enforcement Section. The present organisation chart of the Litigation Division is at Enclosure 3. We set out in Enclosure 4 the main responsibilities of these four sections. The Litigation Division is presently headed by the Deputy Director of Legal Aid/Litigation (DDLA/LIT) (DL3), who is assisted by one DPLAC (DL2), titled as Assistant Director of Legal Aid/Litigation (ADLA/LIT).

Creation of a DPLAC in the Litigation Division

5. The Criminal Section of the Litigation Division provides legal aid to the majority of criminal cases heard at the District Court level and above. At present, the DPLAC of the Litigation Division spends most of her time on the work of the Criminal Section in view of the heavy criminal case load. These include, in the past 12 months, general supervision and approval of the granting of legal aid in 1 667 cases of criminal appeal against conviction or sentence. She also personally assessed the merits of 132 applications for appeal to the Court of Final Appeal and acted as instructing solicitor for 14 of them. In addition, she has to supervise 11 professional officers, 41 law clerks and 26 other staff members in the Criminal Section. As a result, the day-to-day supervision of the other three civil litigation sections are in the main left to the DDLA/LIT.

6. The workload of the three civil litigation sections has also increased significantly in the past few years, as shown in Table B in Enclosure 2. This increase in volume and complexity of work places heavy demand on the DDLA/LIT, who, as a senior directorate officer, is already heavily committed to the policy development of the LAD and divisional administrative matters.

7.To strengthen the Litigation Division, the DLA proposes to create an additional DPLAC to underpin the DDLA/LIT. The existing DPLAC will head the Criminal Section, whilst the new DPLAC will head the new Civil Litigation Section responsible for personal injury and family litigation and providing legal support in the areas of insolvency, costing and enforcement. The proposed DPLAC post will strengthen the management of the three existing civil litigation sections, improve supervision, inject professional lead to junior counsel and develop new expertise in civil litigation. We set out the duties and responsibilities of the two DPLAC posts in the Litigation Division at Enclosure 5. The proposed organisation chart of the Litigation Division is at Enclosure 6.


8. The additional notional annual salary cost of this proposal at MID-POINT is -

$ No. of Post
New permanent post 1,360,8001

The additional full annual average staff cost of the proposal, including salaries and staff on-cost, is $2,259,972. In addition, this proposal will necessitate the creation of one Personal Secretary I post, at an additional notional annual mid-point salary cost of $275,880 and an additional full annual average staff cost of $429,396. We have included sufficient provision in the 1997-98 Estimates to meet the cost of this proposal.


9. Having regard to the increasing volume and complexity in legal aid cases, the Civil Service Bureau supports the creation of the proposed permanent directorate post in the Litigation Division. The grading and ranking of the proposed post are considered appropriate.


10. The Standing Committee on Directorate Salaries and Conditions of Service has advised that the grading proposed for the post would be appropriate if the post were to be created.

Administration Wing
Chief Secretary for Administration's Office
January 1998

Enclosure 4 to EC(97-98)68

Main Responsibilities of the Four Sections in the Litigation Division


Main Responsibilities

Criminal -

Assessing applicants' eligibility for criminal legal aid; providing in-house lawyers for representation in committal proceedings in the Magistrates' Courts, Plea Days bail applications in the District Court; acting as instructing solicitor in District Court, High Court and Court of Final Appeal cases, and monitoring all criminal cases assigned to legal practitioners in private practice.

Personal Injury -

Litigating cases of personal injuries and death, seamen's wage claims, professional negligence and cases for compensation under labour-related Ordinances.

Family Litigation -

Taking or defending proceedings for separation, dissolution of marriage, annulment of marriage, wardship of children and other related matters.

Insolvency, Costing -
and Enforcement

Dealing with winding-up and bankruptcy matters where employees have not been paid their entitlements; assessing and prepares bills of costs; enforcing unsatisfied judgments and orders; obtaining administration or grant of probate for fatal cases litigated in-house.

Enclosure 5 to EC(97-98)68

Duties and Responsibilities of
the Deputy Principal Legal Aid Counsel (DL2)
in the Litigation Division

The Deputy Principal Legal Aid Counsel in the Litigation Division reports to the Deputy Director of Legal Aid/Litigation. His major duties and responsibilities are -

  1. Assisting the Deputy Director of Legal Aid/Litigation in managing and supervising a section/a group of sections in the Litigation Division.

  2. Assigning cases to professional officers in the section/sections and advising them on issues of law, practice and procedures.

  3. Processing or conducting litigation of the more sensitive, complex and difficult cases, including interviewing applicants, legally aided persons and witnesses.

  4. Monitoring the assignments to private legal practitioners.

  5. Assisting the Deputy Directors to investigate complaints by the public, legal aid applicants, aided persons and private legal practitioners concerning matters in connection with their offices.

  6. Attending inter-departmental committees.