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In Brief

A Case on Contempt of Court in Hong Kong's Labour Tribunal

12 May 2017
Mayer Brown In Brief

Under section 42 of Hong Kong's Labour Tribunal Ordinance (LTO), if any person engages in threatening or insulting behaviour or wilfully interrupts a hearing before the Labour Tribunal, the presiding officer may summarily sentence that person to a level 3 fine (which is currently at HK$10,000) and imprisonment for 6 months.

In Mahesh J Roy (CACV 226/2015), the appellant (who was not involved in a Labour Tribunal claim, but appeared to have been present in court to support his girlfriend) had been found guilty of insulting behaviour by the presiding officer. Although details of the "insulting behaviour" are scarce, it would appear that the appellant was asked by the presiding officer to stop assisting his girlfriend in the courtroom and, presumably, responded to the presiding officer's request in such a manner as for the presiding officer to hold that it amounted to insulting behaviour worthy of summary sentencing. We can only guess at what was precisely said or done.

In any case, the appellant was sentenced by the presiding officer to a fine of HK$5,000 under section 42 of the LTO. The appellant was appealing against that sentence to the Court of Appeal. While the Court of Appeal was primarily dealing with a procedural issue (with the substantive appeal set down to be heard on 22 September 2017), this case is a handy reminder that misbehaviour in the Labour Tribunal can be punished and the presiding officer does (occasionally) take action.

The person sentenced by the presiding officer was not a party to the Labour Tribunal proceedings, but someone assisting the claimant in the Labour Tribunal. Therefore, the incident has shown that section 42 of the LTO will also apply to non-parties in the Labour Tribunal.

The judgment is available at this link.


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