The Prosecution Code is a set of statements and instructions to guide prosecutors in conducting prosecutions. It also aims to give others a clearer understanding of the approach prosecutors take, and the considerations they employ, in handling prosecutions. It should be treated as a set of guidelines and always used subject to the issues and circumstances of the particular matter or case. The golden thread that runs through the fabric of the Prosecution Code is the importance of upholding the just rule of law by the just application of just laws.

The public good is a principal consideration in the conduct of prosecutions. The community has a vested interest in the proper conduct of its prosecutions and in furthering the criminal justice imperative that the guilty are convicted and the innocent are acquitted. On behalf of the community, prosecutors take on a heavy responsibility to ensure that justice is dispensed with equal measure and in an even handed manner at all times. A prosecutor is expected to discharge his or her duties with professionalism, skill and integrity, and to operate within the framework of defined and clear prosecution policy guidelines.

The decision whether or not to prosecute an individual or entity is always a crucial one. It should only be taken after a prosecutor has fully evaluated the evidence and circumstances, and answered two questions in particular. First, is the evidence sufficient to justify instituting or continuing proceedings? Second, if it is, does the public interest require a prosecution to be pursued? The prosecutor must at all times act in the public interest and be guided or directed by public interest considerations in the measured and just application of the rule of law. In deciding where the public interest lies in a particular case, the prosecutor must consider the justice of the situation and examine all the factors. It will vary from case to case but, in general, the more serious the offence, the more likely it is that the public interest will require a prosecution to proceed.

The purpose of the Prosecution Code is not only to provide a code of conduct for prosecutors and to promote fair, just and consistent decision-making at all stages of the prosecution process but also to make the community aware of how the public prosecutions system operates. Openness and accountability, together with principled professionalism and independence, are the key objectives of a prosecutor in the pursuit of justice.

The Department of Justice is committed to open justice. It seeks to provide the community with a prosecution service which is fair and transparent. The public are entitled to know that principled criteria guide prosecutors throughout the course of criminal proceedings, and to see for themselves what these are.

The responsibility of prosecutors is to apply the highest of standards in their handling of criminal cases. In their dealings with others, prosecutors need to be frank and honest. They should also be considerate and sensitive when they deal with victims of crime and witnesses. Persons charged with offences are entitled to be treated fairly and with respect, and prosecutors must be scrupulous to protect the interests of anyone suspected or accused of crime. A fair trial requires a fair prosecutor.

The Prosecution Code seeks to:

  1. promote consistency in prosecution practice, eliminating unwarranted disparity between cases;
  2. promote regularity, without regimentation;
  3. facilitate the exercise of discretion in a flexible and principled manner;
  4. ensure the fair and effective exercise of prosecutorial responsibility;
  5. promote confidence in the community and with accused persons that decisions will be made rationally and objectively on the merits of each case;
  6. provide reference points and guidance for prosecutors;
  7. assist in training prosecutors;
  8. ensure the accountability of prosecution decision making;
  9. enhance understanding between agencies and therefore better coordination;
  10. inform the public of the processes and standards being applied;
  11. demonstrate internationally the standards and principles applied in Hong Kong.

In 1990, the Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors were adopted by the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders. They provide guidance to prosecutors in Hong Kong. The Guidelines appear at Appendix I.

The Standards of Professional Responsibility and Statement of the Essential Duties and Rights of Prosecutors were adopted by the International Association of Prosecutors in 1999. The Standards were adopted in 2008 as a Resolution by the 17th United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Justice, and they provide guidance to prosecutors in Hong Kong. The Standards appear at Appendix II.