Depending on its nature and seriousness, a criminal case will be heard before the Magistrates’ Courts, the District Court or the Court of First Instance, as the case may be. Public Prosecutors in the Division handle most appeals and the majority of prosecutions in the Court of First Instance. Public Prosecutors will sometimes prosecute in the Magistrates’ Courts, particularly in cases of significance or where complex issues are expected to arise in the proceedings. Counsel from the private bar and solicitors in private practice are from time to time briefed to prosecute on behalf of the Division (referred to as prosecutors “on fiat”) at all levels of courts.
The majority of prosecutions in the Magistrates’ Courts are conducted by Court Prosecutors, who are appointed as official prosecutors under section 13 of the Magistrates Ordinance (Cap 227) and have rights of audience at the magistracy level. Every Court Prosecutor attends an initial nine-month training course run by counsel in the Department before starting work. He or she also participates in programmes of continuing legal education. Although Court Prosecutors do not have the same legal qualifications as Public Prosecutors, they are valuable assets in the administration of criminal justice and have proved to be effective in discharging their duties.