Macau needs judges from abroad: Valente

Thursday, October 21, 2010
Issue 1145, Page 3
Word count: 833
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

In order to solve the bottleneck problem in Macau’s judicial system, local veteran lawyer Jorge Neto Valente has urged the Government to hire experienced judges from abroad who can help train local counterparts at the same time.

The 2010/11 judiciary year commenced yesterday with Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On officiating the ceremony held at the Culture Centre.

President of the Macau Lawyers Association Jorge Neto Valente admitted in his speech that Macau’s judicial system did not keep pace with the socio-economic development, and was even “very far from satisfying the demands of the SAR and civilians”.

In 2009, the number of cases accepted by the Court of First Instance (TJB), Criminal Court and the Administrative Court dropped respectively 10 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent, however that of the Court of Final Appeal (TUI) and the Court of Second Instance (TSI) rose respectively 15 percent and 20 percent, Valente said.

In addition, he said that although the pending cases at the TJB decreased by 28 percent last year, all the other courts continued to report a growth in the numbers – 10 percent at TUI, 40 percent at TSI, 47 percent at the Criminal Court and 70 percent at the Administrative Court.

The veteran lawyer also disclosed that the TJB had 11,588 new cases in 2009 alone, down 1,200 when compared with 2008. However, with the 13,100 cases left open from previous years, there were altogether 24,700 cases waiting to be processed at the court.

Valente said the numbers showed that even if the number of new cases did not increase at the TJB, “the existing human resources will still not be able to cut down the pending cases to an acceptable level in the next couple of years”.

On a positive note, the TJB reported a closing rate of 61.4 percent last year, up from 48.5 percent in 2008. However, Valente pointed out the negative side of it, that the growing closing rate at TJB has “directly increased” the TSI’s cases by 20 percent while its closing rate also dropped 10 percent to 50.2 percent.

Therefore, he stressed that following the increasing judgements being handed down by the TJB, “it’s for sure that the situation at TSI or perhaps also the TUI will only get worse and worse”.

With regard to the Public Prosecutions Office (MP), Valente said in 2009 it sent 8,475 cases to archive as they had passed the periods of prescription due to the “slow procedure”.

According to Valente, the high archive rate has affected the morale of the police force and also caused discontent among the victims.

All these problems, he added, have led to an impression in society that “the local judicial system has lost its credibility and efficiency”.

Hence, he suggested the Government cultivate outstanding judges locally and pay attention to the quality of their training, and at the same time hire experienced judges from outside of Macau for an interim period in a bid to solve the “urgent demand” for human power in the territory.

Furthermore, Valente also took the opportunity to question the University of Macau’s approach to commission a Hong Kong company to hire the dean whose research languages are English and Chinese for its Faculty of Law. “But this person doesn’t know anything about our legal system!” he said, urging the Chief Executive not to use this kind of recruitment anymore.

President of the Court of Final Appeal Sam Hou Fai said the lack of court facilities in Macau has already developed to the stage where the problem “can no longer be tolerated”.

With a new batch of trainee judges set to graduate in June 2011 and the number of judges at the TSI set to increase, Sam reiterated that it is necessary to look for an additional facility as a provisional workplace for the TJB and TSI in the near future.

He also said that as long as the training and internship work can be implemented properly, he believed that Macau’s judicial efficiency can be improved effectively in the years to come.

Judicial independence emphasised

Chief Executive Fernando Chui Sai On pledged in his speech during the opening ceremony that the SAR Government will reinforce judicial training and enhance human resources in order to fully support Macau’s judicial system to operate with high efficiency and quality.

He stressed that judicial independence is an “important cornerstone” for the territory to exercise a high degree of autonomy. Hence he said that the SAR Government will strictly follow the spirit of judicial independence as well as continue to promote the rule of law that is “widely approved” in Macau.

Meanwhile, the Chief Executive highlighted that judicial independence is a prerequisite for a fair judgement, which can in turn protect people’s rights and interests and bring harmony to society.

He reiterated that the Government and the judicial institutes will work together in order to make Macau become a “world travel and leisure hub with integrated Sino-Western cultures, a sound legal system and sustainable development”.

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