The Faculty of Law at The University of Hong Kong is the first in Hong Kong to establish a live-client CLE Programme. It provides much needed pro bono legal services to the community through the Free Legal Advice Scheme on campus, where legal advice is provided by experienced volunteer lawyers with the support of law students taking the CLE Course. Through handling real clients, students can contextualise textbook knowledge in a real-world setting. Through helping some clients who feel distressed as a result of daunting legal processes, students see the important role that a conscientious and passionate lawyer can play. The Programme seeks to achieve a quadripartite stakeholder synergy among law teachers, students, outside volunteer lawyers and clients to fill important legal knowledge and service gaps in the community and to contribute to the Rule of Law. Since its introduction in January 2010, the Programme has provided quality legal advice and assistance to more than 750 clients, receiving very positive feedback, and has rectified several ‘miscarriage of justice’ cases.
In a recent case (HKSAR v A CACC 400/2013, 16 September 2015) the defendant was convicted by the jury of conspiracy to rob and was sentenced to 8.5 years’ imprisonment. Legal aid for an appeal to the Court of Appeal was initially refused for lack of merit. The defendant sought helped from the CLE Programme while he was in Stanley prison. With the research and assistance from our CLE students, we took the view that there were arguable grounds of appeal, and we helped him to persuade the Director of Legal Aid to grant legal aid in April 2015. Mr. Eric Cheung, the Director of our CLE Programme, was assigned to be the solicitor advocate for the appeal hearing. Upon discovery that the police had failed to disclose before trial certain telephone records which supported his innocence by contradicting what the key prosecution witness had alleged against him, bail pending appeal was obtained in July 2015, after he had been in custody for 33 months. His conviction was eventually quashed by the Court of Appeal without a re-trial upon concession by the Department of Justice.
Please visit the Clinical Legal Education Programme website (http://www.law.hku.hk/cle/) for more information.