IN THE HIGH COURT OF THE
HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
PROBATE ACTION NO. 9 OF 2005
Before : Hon Poon J in Court
Date of Hearing : 8 March 2011
Date of Decision : 8 March 2011
D E C I S I O N
1. This is the defendant’s application for an order restraining the media from publishing or disclosing the names, address, schoolor other personal particulars of the Deceased’s minors (“the Minors”) or any information including but not limited to any photographin a manner that may lead to the identification of their names, address, school or other personal particulars.
2. This is no doubt a sensational case, which has understandably attracted considerable media and public attention. The press hasbeen following its progress and reports have been carried by various leading newspapers almost daily ever since the commencementof the trial.
3. The defendant now complains that three of the Minors, who are attending school, are disturbed by the wide media coverage of thecase, which had their identity revealed. On 5 March 2011, a reporter called at the defendant’s premises on the pretext that shewas a friend of hers and had an appointment with her, presumably with a view to interviewing her for further information about thecase. Naturally, the defendant is concerned that the Minors’ privacy may be disturbed.
4. In my view, there are two competing interests that need to be addressed.
5. On the one hand, the court should protect the Minors, who are not parties or witnesses to this action, against any unwarranted andunjustified intrusion on their privacy by the media. On the other, the court must give due regard to the freedom of the press, whichis one of the important pillars that supports Hong Kong as a free and civilized society. The press should be free to investigateand to publish matters that are of general public interest. Restrictions on such freedom can only be imposed when it is clearlydemonstrated that they are legitimate, necessary and reasonably proportionate to the circumstances before the court. The court needsto carefully balance these two competing interests with all the relevant circumstances in mind and see where the justice of the caselies.
6. Here, I think the balance tilts overwhelmingly in favour of protecting the Minors against the media’s interference with theirprivacy.
7. The Minors, as noted, are not parties or even witnesses to this action. The trial does not concern their private life, perhapssave and expect the Deceased’s relationship with them before his death. If necessary, the defendant or his two other co-habiteeswill give evidence on those matters. How the Minors are now leading their private life is simply irrelevant. Interesting as itis to some prying media or their nosy readers, their private life has no bearing whatsoever on any legitimate discussion that thepublic may reasonably have or are expected to have over any of the matters, legal, moral or otherwise, that may arise from this case.
8. I will therefore allow the application and make an order in terms of the draft order submitted by Mr Yu.
9. I understand that the press is not represented and I have not received any submission from them. I will therefore give them libertyto apply if so advised.
Mr Neville Sarony, SC, leading Mr Nelson L. Miu and Ms Angel Lau, instructed by Messrs Hui & Lam, assigned by Director of LegalAid, for the Plaintiffs
Mr Benjamin Yu, SC and Mr Johnny Mok, SC, leading Ms Po Wing Kay, Mr Kestrel Lam and Ms Doris Li, instructed by Messrs C.O. Chan& Co., for the Defendant