One of the long-term objectives of the Division is to make legislation more accessible as well as easier to read and understand. Indeed the Division holds the view that the rule of law, which is treasured so much by the people of the HKSAR, requires that the law be accessible.
With this in mind, the Division has adopted drafting principles and techniques that ensure the statutory laws of the HKSAR are as clear and simple as possible. Its drafting techniques include those that aim at facilitating comprehension of legislation to all statute users, from legal professionals to members of the public, in the understanding that legislation regulates the conduct of citizens in many aspects of their lives.
Looking forward, the Division will remain strongly committed to plain language drafting as a means to creating user-friendly laws. The Division’s Drafting Techniques and Legislative Styles Committee, established in 2008, will continue to meet regularly to examine legislative drafting styles and practices, with an emphasis on techniques that can produce simple and clear legislation. Apart from the changes already implemented (e.g. updated document designs, avoiding archaic words, using plainer terms and simplifying sentence structures), the Division has begun using overviews, signposting, notes and examples in legislation as aids to the reader.
As part of this commitment, the Division has made an initiative to consider how legislative drafting in Chinese can be further advanced—the Chinese Drafting Sub-committee, formed under the Drafting Techniques and Legislative Style Committee, held its first meeting in December 2012. The Sub-committee has been assigned with the tasks of compiling a comprehensive manual for legislative drafting in Chinese; recommending drafting styles for the Chinese text; and disseminating good practices for drafting the law in Chinese. In addition, it will make recommendations on matters relating to co-ordinating the drafting of the two official language texts of HKSAR legislation.
The Division strives to enhance the continuing professional development of drafting counsel to meet the challenges posed by the ever-evolving law and the technological advances of the digital age. Consequently, it gives a very high priority to providing drafting counsel with training and other opportunities to upgrade and update their knowledge, skills and competencies.
To this end, a structured programme of in-house talks and workshops on a wide range of topics is being implemented. The programme is conducted by experienced drafting counsel, as well as outside experts, and covers the theory and practice of law drafting and other relevant legal and non-legal topics. The Division realises that it is a challenging task to make both the Chinese and English texts of legislation equally readable. The programme has therefore been designed to give a balanced emphasis on the theory and practice of drafting in both official languages. For example, on 2 October 2013, former Chief Legislative Counsel of Canada, Mr Lionel Levert, shared his extensive experience in bilingual drafting with counsel in an engaging seminar organised by the Division. In 2014, out of the 10 workshops conducted for members of the Division, five of them covered topics related to bilingual drafting or the use of Chinese in legislative drafting.
The Division has been implementing measures to ensure that its professional staff has ample opportunities to share knowledge and experience in a friendly and supportive environment. These include monthly all-counsel meetings during which drafters discuss their current work items, and an e-forum on which counsel post questions and share information in an informal way.
The Division has also developed an elaborate system of public folders in its internal computer network to facilitate knowledge sharing. The system provides a convenient means of central access for members of the Division to training materials and other related information that may be helpful to them.