Hong Kong Legal System
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2. What are the major functions of the Department of Justice?

The Department of Justice comprises six divisions and five of which are professional divisions headed by a Law Officer to whom the Secretary for Justice delegates certain powers and responsibilities. The remaining division deals with administrative, training and personnel matters and the development needs of the department. Providing direct support to the Secretary for Justice is the Secretary for Justice's Office. A principal function of this Office is to assist the Secretary in relation to matters arising from the Executive and Legislative Councils concerning the promotion of legislation or providing answers to legislative councilors' questions.

Prosecutions Division

The Prosecutions Division is headed by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Lawyers from the division conduct the prosecution in the majority of Court of First Instance and District Court trials and often appear before magistrates in important cases or when difficult points of law arise. However, the majority of cases before Magistrates are prosecuted by Court Prosecutors.

In addition to court appearances, Government Counsel in the Prosecutions Division advise the law enforcement agencies and other Government departments responsible for the prosecution of offences (e.g. the Hong Kong Police).

Civil Division

The Civil Division, headed by the Law Officer (Civil Law), provides legal advice on civil law to all Government bureaux and departments. It also represents the Government both as solicitors and as barristers in all civil litigations, including arbitrations. Specialist units advise on building and planning law, on the drafting of Government contracts and on the role of the Government as an employer. The division advises on the adequacy of existing legislation in relation to civil law and on the preparation of drafting instructions in respect of new legislation or amendments to existing legislation.

Law Drafting Division

The Law Drafting Division, headed by the Law Draftsman, is responsible for drafting all Government legislation of the HKSAR. Counsel in the division also advise the Government on legal issues identified in the course of developing the draft legislation. When the final draft of a piece of legislation is submitted to the Executive Council for consideration and to the Legislative Council to go through the legislative process, the draftsman has to attend meetings of each Council together with representatives from the relevant Government bureau in order to answer questions relating to drafting the legislation and general legal issues. Reflecting the Draftsman's role as keeper of the statute book, the division also vets all proposed legislation that is initiated by persons or bodies other than the Government. This function is performed to ensure that all legislation conforms to the requirements as to the form of bills and to the general form of Hong Kong legislation.

To establish standardized Chinese equivalents for English legal expressions, the division has compiled an English-Chinese Glossary of Legal Terms and a Chinese-English Glossary of Legal Terms. These glossaries refer to the bilingual legal expressions used in our legislation.

The Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) is a database of the Laws of Hong Kong which is developed and maintained by the division. It is a free service to the public and is available on the Internet. The division also maintains the Loose-Leaf Edition of the Laws of Hong Kong.

Legal Policy Division

The Legal Policy Division serves the needs of the Solicitor General and gives legal policy advice in respect of matters currently being considered by the Government. The division also advises on issues affecting the administration of justice, human rights, the legal system, the Basic Law, constitutional law and the law in Mainland China. The division plays an active role in promoting the understanding of Hong Kong's rule of law and the Basic Law locally, overseas and on the Mainland. The counsel who work in the Law Reform Commission Secretariat are also part of this division.

International Law Division

The International Law Division is headed by the Law Officer (International Law) and provides advice on public international law to the Government. It also negotiates or provides legal advisers on negotiations for bilateral agreements with foreign countries. Counsel from the division also participate, as members of the Chinese delegation, in the negotiation of multilateral treaties on public and private international law. The Mutual Legal Assistance Unit under this Division handles and co-ordinates requests to and from the HKSAR concerning the surrender of fugitive offenders, mutual legal assistance and the transfer of sentenced persons to / from overseas.

Administration and Development Division

The Administration and Development Division is headed by the Director of Administration and Development. As controlling officer, the Director is responsible for reporting to the Legislative Council on the finances of the Department of Justice. The division deals with the many and varied matters involved in running a major government department including administrative, financial, accounting and management services, office automation, training, library, general translation services, recruitment, personnel, and office accommodation.

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