HKSAR v Ma Sin Chi
Court of Appeal
Criminal Appeal No. 424 of 2013
Registrar Lung Kim Wan in Chambers
14 March 2017

Costs – taxation – Department of Justice, as receiving party in taxation of costs in criminal appeal, should provide information on seniority of Government counsel involved in appeal

The question in the taxation of the bills of costs of the Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) in these 11 criminal appeals was whether the DOJ, as receiving party, should provide information on the seniority of the Government counsel involved the appeals. Relying on a statement made by Burrell J in Building Authority v Business Rights Ltd [1999] 3 HKC 247 at p. 255 that, regardless of who appeared, the hourly rate for an advocate conducting a case in court “should be equivalent to senior partner level for solicitors or even higher”, the DOJ argued that it need not provide such information.

Held, withholding taxation of the bills of costs until the DOJ had supplied information on the post-qualification experience of the Government counsel involved and the complexities of the case, if applicable, that:

  • What Burrell J said in Building Authority v Business Rights Ltd was being read out of context by the DOJ. Reading it to mean that the rate of costs for a senior partner of a law firm should apply to a Government counsel irrespective of that counsel’s seniority was contrary to common sense and inconsistent with the decision of the Court of Appeal in Ling Yuk Sing v Secretary for the Civil Service [2010] 3 HKLRD 722.
  • The taxing authority would be unable to discharge its duty of taxing a bill of costs without evidence or information from the DOJ as to the experience of the Government counsel in charge of the items of the bill of costs and the complexities of the case if the charge was above the norm.
Jurisdictions: 

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