By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
The First Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly generally agrees that civil servants deserve judicial aid from the Government when being sued due to execution of public duties, but the lawmakers are not so sure about in situations when civil servants are the plaintiffs who initiate a lawsuit.
The draft bill proposing to provide full financial assistance to public servants in a lawsuit as a result of their job duties was for the first time discussed in the First Standing Committee yesterday.
According to president of the standing committee Kwan Tsui Hang, the Government representatives explained that “civil servants are representing the Government when executing public duties”, and thus they should be protected by the Government in a civil or criminal lawsuit.
Kwan said the lawmakers basically supported the Government’s intention, but were uncertain about Article 4 in the bill, which proposes to offer the same financial help to civil servants who are to sue a third party for “harming their bodies, freedom, reputation and valuable property”.
The Government representatives argued that at present Judiciary Police officers and prison guards can already receive judicial aid to initiate a lawsuit against other people who threaten their life safety, and that the draft bill is only to extend the assistance to all civil servants.
For example, the judicial aid could be used when a Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau’s inspector went on an illegal hawker raid and then got beaten in the operation.
Kwan Tsui Hang said the committee in the next meeting on next Tuesday will start to “go deep” into the concerns, but basically some lawmakers accepted the Government’s arguments but some didn’t.
Those who did not support Article 4 pointed out that civil servants should report to police instead and the Public Prosecutions Office will then handle the case and initiate charges against the persons responsible for it.
The lawmakers also said that civil servants are already in a “superior position” and if the Government is to provide them with such kind of judicial assistance, the social status between them and normal civilians will become “even more unequal”.
In addition, Kwan said the Government deemed that the mechanism is not likely to be misused, adding that so far the Judiciary Police had only initiated one lawsuit while the prison guards had none.