HC Deb 31 October 1957 vol 575 cc387-8
42. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies the number of serious crimes committed in Hong Kong Colony during 1956; how many of these were tried in the magistrates' courts, the district courts, or the supreme courts; and how many of the persons tried in each of these courts were legally represented.

Mr. Profumo

Altogether, 22,587 serious crimes were reported in 1956 and 12,101 persons were charged or summoned. 11,739 persons appeared in the magistrates' courts, 246 in the district courts, and 116 in the Supreme Court. It is estimated that about 600 people were legally represented in the magistrates' courts. It is known that 71 were legally represented in the district court and 24 in the Supreme Court.

Mr. Rankin

May I take it from those figures that about 75 per cent, of those who were tried in the Supreme Court were undefended? Is it not rather disturbing that in a British Territory today a person may be sentenced for life without having had the chance of being defended because he has no money? Would not the Minister urge on the Hong Kong Administration that they should consider establishing a system of legal aid after the pattern of that which exists in Singapore?

Mr. Profumo

The possibility of increasing the provision of legal aid is at present under consideration by the Attorney-General in consultation with the Chief Justice.