At Issue
2/15/2012 1:17:29 AM EST
Hong Kong’s judicial gunboats
Douglas Clark takes a historical look at the British Supreme Court for China and Japan, which had jurisdiction over British subjects in China from 1865 to 1943.
Posted by LexisNexis

"This Supreme Court of Hong Kong is the greatest nuisance in the East.” ~ The Times of London, 13 July 1863

The quote above reflects a sentiment held by many parties and lawyers who have appeared before the Supreme Court of Hong Kong (HKSC), now known as the High Court. The Times went on:

“Any Consul or Custom-House office who dares to take any measures against any of the ‘scum of Europe’ found running goods, or levying blackmail or shooting natives in China or Japan is immediately sued in the Supreme Court.”

What business did the HKSC have dealing with smugglers, blackmailers or shooters of natives in China and Japan? The answer is: extraterritoriality.

Under the treaties Britain signed with China and Japan in the mid-19th century, Britain obtained extraterritorial rights over its subjects in China and Japan. This meant that British subjects could not be tried for criminal offences or sued in civil cases in Chinese or Japanese courts. Rather, they had to be prosecuted or sued in British courts. Put simply, in modern day terms, all British subjects in China and Japan had diplomatic immunity: even if they were the ‘scum of Europe’ (as indeed many of them were).

Out of the barrel of a gunboat

The Treaty of Nanking (1842), the British-Japan Treaty of Amity and Commerce (1858) and the subsequent Treaty of Tientsin (1858) which extended extraterritorial rights in China were all signed by China and Japan with the barrels of British and American gunboats aimed directly at their cities. The Treaties of Nanking and Tientsin were signed after the two opium wars where British Navy gunboats had threatened the destruction of both cities if the treaties were not signed. The Treaty of Tientsin (which also legalized the importation of opium) was only ratified in 1860, after a British and French force occupied Peking and looted and burnt the Summer Palace.

In Japan, Britain was able to sign a treaty after the Americans had forced the Shogunate to open up Japan to trade under the threat of the destruction of their capital Edo (Tokyo). Subsequently, the British Navy engaged in two major battles in Kagoshima and Shimonoseki in Japan to enforce their treaty rights.

In China, British gunboats would be called in many times to protect judges and courts in provincial cities. In 1874, Chief Judge Edmund Hornby had to call in a British gunboat to save him from a mob when a British foreman was acquitted of manslaughter by a British jury in Chefoo (Yantai). Hornby wrote later:

“Of course I never tried another British subject accused of killing a Chinaman at an outlying port, unless there was a gun-boat at hand.” ~ Edmund Hornby, An Autobiography (1928), p 240-5.

In 1898, the British gunboat HMS Redpole was called up from Hong Kong to Swatow when the local Mandarin told the British prosecutor and consul that if the British defendant was acquitted he could not control the mob violence that would occur. The British consul replied drily that that would be ‘very inconvenient’ for the Mandarin because a gunboat was on the way. No violence ensued: North China Herald, (24 March 1893) 408; ibid, (31 October 1925), 200.

In China and Japan, British judicial power came out of the barrel of a gunboat. The courts lived by the gunboat and, as we shall see, in China, British judicial power also died by the gunboat.

Extraterritoriality in practice

The principal reason for the British government to demand and obtain extraterritorial rights was so that British subjects would not be subject to what were perceived to be the barbaric practices of Chinese and Japanese courts, such as torturing witnesses and imposing the death penalty for minor offences.

Instead, British subjects in China and Japan would be brought before consular courts established in British consulates in each city that had been opened for trade under the treaties. The consular courts were presided by consular officers of the rank or vice-consul or above. They were not legally trained and often had little experience of the law.

From 1842 to 1865 appeals from these consular courts lay to the HKSC; hence, the comment of The Times. The concern of The Times, and many others, was that the HKSC, which was staffed by trained lawyers, would apply the law. In the 1840s, the HKSC overturned a fine imposed on a Mr Compton for instigating a riot in Canton. Chief Justice Hume was highly critical of the way in which the case had been handled. Sir John Davis, the then Governor of Hong Kong, disagreed and wrote to Lord Palmerston, the Foreign Secretary, stating that ‘some fresh ordinance will inevitably be required to prevent such mischievous interference in international cases’: GW Keeton, The Development of Extraterritoriality in China, p 240-1.

In criminal cases, a serious problem arose that it was very difficult to gather necessary evidence of a crime in China that would satisfy a jury in Hong Kong to find the person guilty of the offence they were charged with. This meant that consuls would prefer to try British prisoners in the consular courts even for murder or arson. The maximum penalty that could be imposed without triggering an appeal, however, was only 12 months imprisonment, which was clearly unsatisfactory for such serious cases.

For this and other reasons, in 1865, Her Britannic Majesty’s Supreme Court for China and Japan (SCCJ) was established in Shanghai to take over the role of the HKSC. The court was established as the appellate court from consular courts in China and Japan. It was also given first instance jurisdiction in the Shanghai region, as well as for serious criminal and large civil cases. The judges of the court were required to travel on circuit in China and Japan to try appellate and first instance cases. From 1871, a bespoke court house was built in the compound of the British consulate in Shanghai. The building still stands to this day.

The Hong Kong courts and extraterritoriality

The HKSC did not, however, completely lose extraterritorial jurisdiction in China. It retained extraterritorial jurisdiction to try cases relating to British subjects that occurred within 10 miles of its borders, extending its jurisdiction at the time from the Kowloon Peninsula to the rest of Kowloon and what is now part of the New Territories. In 1898, when the New Territories lease came into effect, this jurisdiction extended into what is now modern day Shenzhen.

From 1865 onwards, the HKSC and the SCCJ operated as separate courts, the former applying Hong Kong law and having jurisdiction over all people in Hong Kong; the latter applying English law and having jurisdiction over British subjects in China and Japan, and from 1878 in Korea. In 1899, extraterritoriality came to an end in Japan and the court then became the Supreme Court for China and Corea; and in 1910, when Japan annexed Korea, it became the Supreme Court for China (SCC).

Between, 1902 and 1930, the HKSC also gained appellate jurisdiction over a small part of Shandong. In 1898, Weihaiwei was leased from China to serve as a naval base and became a British colony. The SCCJ lost jurisdiction over Weihaiwei and a High Court for Weihaiwei was established in 1902.  Appeals, lay to the HKSC although it appears no appeals were ever heard.

The HKSC also retained jurisdiction to try cases from China if they were referred from the SCC. In 1912, R v Ibrahim [1913] HKLR 1; [1914] AC 599 was transferred to Hong Kong, under a warrant signed by the Chief Judge in Shanghai, Sir Havilland de Sausmarez.

Ibrahim, an Afghani soldier serving in the British forces in Canton, was convicted of murdering his commanding officer. The case ended up in the Privy Council and remains a leading decision on the question of voluntariness of a confession to a person in a position of authority. The case, also, despite being a decision of the HKSC, became a leading decision on the scope of the extraterritorial powers of the SCC.

At the trial, Rees-Davies CJ had reserved questions of law to the Hong Kong Full Court (HKFC) concerning the jurisdiction of the court to try Ibrahim on the grounds he was not British and, more interestingly, because of the Republican Revolution that had just occurred in China, Ibrahim argued the treaties giving extraterritorial rights were no longer in force. The HKSC and, subsequently, the Privy Council wrote long decisions defining the rights and power of the SCC and dismissed his appeals.

Interestingly, the decision of the Privy Council despite being an appeal from the HKSC was not binding in Hong Kong. The reason being that the HKSC had exercised the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the SCC which and had applied English law and not Hong Kong law.

Shanghai judges come to Hong Kong

The Ibrahim case had one final twist to it. The first hearing of the appeal was on 25 November 1912. If it had commenced six days later or after, that is on or after 1 December 1912, the appeal would have been presided over by the Chief Judge of the SCC, Sir Havilland de Sausmarez, sitting as President of the HKFC.

Until 1912, the HKSC had only two judges, the Chief Justice and a judge. Appeals from the decisions of the judge or Chief Justice would be reviewed by the Chief Justice with an appeal to the Privy Council. This was, obviously, unsatisfactory, particularly in relation to the Chief Justice reviewing his own decisions. The performance of Sir Francis Piggott (ironically, a noted expert on extraterritoriality) as Chief Justice had been heavily criticized by both officials and lawyers. This included comments to the effect that ‘it was a matter of common knowledge that if a client wished to win his case it was advisable for him to engage a particular Solicitor, and a particular Counsel both of whom were favoured by the Chief Justice’: P Wesley-Smith, ‘Sir Francis Piggott, Chief Justice of his own cause’ (1982) 12 HKLJ 260, 276-7.

In 1912, a decision was made to create a full court of three judges to hear appeals. By agreement between the Foreign Office, which was responsible for the SCC, and the Colonial Office, which was responsible for Hong Kong, it was agreed that the judge of the SCC would sit on the HKFC when it was created.

This proposal was not welcomed in the Hong Kong business community on the basis that the appointment of a third full time judge in Hong Kong would be much preferred to a judge from Shanghai visiting for 15 days every six months. The extraterritorial nature of a Shanghai judge’s experience was also noted. Mr Osborne, in the Legislative Council debate, said:

“... [W]hat are the qualifications of a Shanghai judge to sit in the Courts of Hongkong? Litigation in Hongkong is mostly between Chinese; cases where Chinese customs and Chinese methods of accounting are frequently involved ... The jurisdiction of the Shanghai judge on the other hand is confined entirely to British subjects or where British subjects are defendants ... it is open to question whether a judge whose experience is thus limited is qualified to sit for two short periods a year upon the Bench of Hongkong.” ~ Hong Kong Legislative Council Debate, 6 June 1912, p 49.

Others also opposed the proposal. It was nevertheless passed and from 1912 to 1943 a judge of the SCC was entitled to sit on the HKFC. The position of president was assigned to the judge with the greatest seniority. As Sir Francis Piggott had only recently resigned from the bench, Sir Havilland de Sausmarez, the then judge of the SCC, had seniority and served as President of the HKFC until his retirement in 1920.

After de Sausmarez retired, subsequent judges of the SCC also came from Shanghai to sit on the HKFC and their judgments can all be found in the Hong Kong Law Reports.

Hong Kong judges go to Shanghai 

Until 1926 in Shanghai, the same system of appeals was in place as that in Hong Kong prior to 1912, with the judge reviewing his decisions or those of the assistant judge with an ultimate appeal to the Privy Council. In 1926, the Supreme Court in Shanghai also established a Full Court on the same model as Hong Kong where the two judges in Shanghai would be joined by a judge from Hong Kong to sit as a Full Court. Appeals to the Privy Council could only be brought from decisions of the Full Court.

On 8 October 1926, the first two appeal hearings before the Shanghai Full Court were heard before Sir Skinner Turner and Peter Grain from Shanghai and Sir Henry Gollan CJ from Hong Kong. This was welcomed by the local press as ‘an important innovation’ and ‘a very important advance in the procedure of the court’: North China Herald (16 October 1926), 126. The first appeal related to a contract claim brought by a lumber company owned by three Russians and a Chinese against a British company over whether there was a contractual obligation to buy or finance the purchase of lumber. The second case was an appeal against conviction by a Sikh, Hasura Singh, for grievous bodily harm of another Sikh, Jagat Singh. The appeal was dismissed: ibid.

The mid-1920s were a period of great tumult in China. The Kuomintang had successfully advanced north from their base in Guangdong Province and taken over a number of foreign settlements and started to establish an effective national government. They were also pushing hard to put an end to extraterritoriality. An Extraterritoriality Commission was established by China and the foreign powers in 1926 to report on how to bring an end to extraterritoriality. Chinese nationalism had become very strong.

This nationalism led to an interesting exchange in the SCC between a disbarred British barrister, Lawrence Kentwell, and the Registrar of the SCC, Gilbert King. Kentwell, whose mother was Chinese, had been arrested for failing to pay a judgment debt. He challenged the jurisdiction of the court on the basis that he had given up his British citizenship and applied to become Chinese. Kentwell said, “I demand my immediate release as a Chinese citizen. This is the Gunboat Policy again”: North China Herald (5 February 1937) 301. After some other outbursts from Kentwell, eventually, Registrar King said, “I do not propose to act like a judicial gunboat, but I have to obey the law”: ibid.

In fact, by obeying English law in China, King and all the other judges of the court were, in fact, judicial gunboats, who by this time the British government were preparing to allow to sail home. From 1927 to 1930 negotiations continued with the Chinese to bring an end to extraterritoriality and by 1930, an agreement in principle was reached. This agreement was not, however, put into force because the Japanese invasion of Northern China put the issue on the backburner extending the life of the court for another decade. Throughout this period, the British courts in China continued to function and Hong Kong judges, including Sir Joseph Kemp and Lindsell J, regularly went to Shanghai to sit on the Shanghai Full Court.

The last appeal before the Full Court of the SCC was heard on 4 August 1941 in the case of R v Patrick John MacKellar (FO 1092/337) before Mossop J, Grant Jones AJ with Chief Justice Athol MacGregor from Hong Kong presiding. MacKellar had been charged with embezzlement. The appeal was dismissed with conviction on each charge confirmed, and the sentence was reduced to 18 months’ imprisonment with hard labour in each charge, to run concurrently and from date of conviction: ‘Hong Kong Judge’ Full court Note Book 9 Dec 1933 to [blank]’, UK National Archives, p 54-63. Mackellar was to serve only a further four months in prison. He was granted a remission just before war with Japan broke out.

Death by gunboat

On 8 December 1941, Japan declared war on Britain and the United States. In the early morning of the same day, after inviting the captain of the HMS Peterel, the only British navy ship left in Shanghai, to surrender, the invitation was declined with the words: “Get of my bloody ship!” Within minutes, in response, the Japanese battleship HIJMS Idzumo sank the HMS Peterel: Greg Leck, Captives of Empire: The Japanese Internment of Allied Civilians in China, 1941-1945 (2006).

At 11am that morning the premises of the HKSC were occupied by the Japanese Navy. The judges of the court, Sir Allan Mossop and Sir Penrhyn Grant Jones, the Crown Advocate John McNeill and the other staff of the court were either interned at the Cathay Hotel or their homes until in August 1942, when they were eventually evacuated to England: J Mossop, Report Relating to His Britannic Majesty’s Supreme Court in Japanese Occupied China, (24 September 1942, FO369/2719).

The SCC effectively ceased to function from December 1941 and was never to be resurrected.

Postscript

McGregor CJ, back in Hong Kong, was not as lucky as the judges in Shanghai; he was interned in the Stanley Prisoner of War camp for the duration of the war where he and other magistrates continued to preside over cases in the camp: Argus (25 May 1943), p12.

British extraterritorial rights were formally ended in China by a treaty signed in 1943 and an Order in Council passed closing the SCC. SCC judgments were to be recognised by Chinese courts and records were to be maintained in China for 10 years. These records are all now in the British National Archives in London having been returned by the Chinese in 1984.

John McNeill, was to return to Asia after the war. After a brief period working for the British Embassy in Nanking and assisting with the liquidation of the Shanghai International Settlement, he moved to Hong Kong were he practised as a barrister for more than 10 years. He took silk and became the fourth chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association in 1952 and served four terms at different times until he retired in 1960. At the time, a very young Henry Litton who had just started practice in Hong Kong inherited Mr McNeill’s clerk, whom he recalls, was a very good clerk. McNeill’s daughter, Jane, married the Earl of Dalkeith at a wedding attended by the new Queen in 1952. She died in 2011 having become the Duchess of Bucchleuch and Queensberry: Obituary, The Telegraph (13 May 2011).

 

Douglas Clark
Barrister-at-Law
Gilt Chambers
doug@douglas-clark.com

The author’s book, Gunboat Justice, is due to be published later this year by Earnshaw Books. He will be happy to receive any information about extraterritorial courts in China.

 

香港的司法砲艦
馬錦德大律師對British Supreme Court for China and Japan進行了一次歷史性回顧,該法院在1865至 1943年期間對在中國的英國公民享有司法管轄權。

「這所香港最高法院是在東方所見最討厭的東西。」~《倫敦泰晤士報》,1863年7月13日上述的引文,反映了在香港最高法院(現稱高等法院)出庭的許多當事人和律師的觀感。《泰晤士報》續稱:

「任何領事或海關檢查辦公室(Custom-House office)膽敢針對在中國或日本走私貨品、徵收勒索費或射殺當地人的『歐洲敗類』採取任何制裁措施,在最高法院即時被提起訴訟。」

香港最高法院在處理於中國和日本進行走私、勒索或射殺當地人的人時需要考慮什麼呢?答案是:治外法權。在十九世紀中葉,根據英國與中國和日本簽署的條約,英國公民在中國和日本享有治外法權。這意味著,英國公民不能在中國或日本法院就刑事罪行進行審訊或是就民事案件被起訴。相反,他們必須在英國的法院被檢控或起訴。簡單來說,以現今的話來說,所有在中國和日本的英國公民均享有外交豁免權:即使他們是「歐洲的敗類」(事實上他們當中有許多人都是)。

在砲艦的砲口之下

《南京條約》(1842年) 和《英日友好通商條約》(1858年) 以及其後的《天津條約》(1858年) 擴大了英國在中國享有的治外法權,而這些條約都是英美兩國砲艦的砲口直接對準中日兩地的情況下簽署的。《南京條約》和《天津條約》是兩次鴉片戰爭後簽訂的,而當時的英國海軍砲艦曾揚言,倘若中國不答應簽訂該等條約,便會破壞這兩個地方。《天津條約》(亦導致鴉片進口中國合法化)是當年英法兩支部隊佔領北京,搶掠和焚燒了頤和園後,滿清政府才於1860年迫於承認的。

至於日本,美國人威脅破壞日本首都江戶(現稱東京),強迫幕府開放日本通商後,英國才得以與日本簽訂條約。其後,英國海軍在日本的鹿兒島和下關進行了兩場重大戰役,以強制執行英國在條約下所享的權利。

至於中國,英國砲艦曾多次被召喚,以保護位於中國各省市的英國法官和法院。1874年,一名英國工頭在芝罘(煙台)被控誤殺罪,當一個由英國人組成的陪審團判處他無罪釋放時,首席大法官Edmund Hornby須召喚英國砲艦,以保護自身免受暴民的傷害。Hornby其後寫道:

「當然,除非有砲艦在旁,否則我永遠不會在遠離英國的港口審訊另一名被指控殺害一名中國人的英國公民。」~ Edmund Hornby,
An Autobiography (1928), p 240-5。

1898年,汕頭的一名滿洲官員告訴英國的檢察官和領事,如果英籍的被告人被判無罪釋放,他將無法控制可能會發生的暴民暴力行為,於是英國砲艦HMS Redpole即從香港被徵調到汕頭。該名英國領事冷冷地回應道,若然如此,這將會對該名滿洲官員造成「很大的不便」,因為他們有一艘砲艦正在途中。其後當地並沒有爆發任何暴力衝突:《北華捷報》(1893年3月24日)408;同上,(1925年10月31 日),200。

在中國和日本,英國的司法權力源自砲艦砲口,而法院也是倚仗砲艦的力量來支持。我們將會看到,英國在中國的司法權力亦是因砲艦而告終。

治外法權的實踐

英國政府要求獲得治外法權的主要理由,是要使英國公民免遭受他們認為是中國和日本法院的野蠻行徑對待,譬如拷問證人以及對觸犯輕微罪行的人判處死刑等。

相反,按照條約規定,在中國和日本的英國公民將被帶到各對外通商城市的英國領事館所設立的領事法庭接受審訊。領事法庭是由副領事或以上職級的領事官員負責審理案件。他們從來沒有接受過法律培訓,而處理法律的經驗也往往並不足夠。

在1842年到1865年間,從這些領事法庭提出的上訴,都被移交到香港最高法院審理,這亦導致《泰晤士報》作出上述評論。《泰晤士報》以及許多其他人所關注的,是以受過培訓的律師所組成的香港最高法院負責應用法律。在1840年代,香港最高法院推翻了對在廣州煽動騷亂的Mr Compton所施加的罰款。首席大法官Hume對該案件的處理方式作出了非常嚴厲的批評。當時的香港總督約翰戴維斯爵士(Sir John Davis)並不同意,並致函英國外交大臣巴麥尊勳爵(Lord Palmerston),指出「有必要制定一些新條例,防範在國際性的案件中出現此等造成傷害的干擾」:GW Keeton, The Development of Extraterritoriality in China, p 240-1。

在刑事案件中,如果出現了嚴重事故,很難在中國收集所需的犯罪證據,以滿足香港的陪審團裁定被指干犯罪行的人有罪。這意味著領事寧願嘗試在領事法庭審訊英籍的囚犯,即使他們涉及殺人或縱火案件。然而,領事法庭可以施加(而又不會啟動上訴程序)的最高刑期只有12個月監禁,這對於如此嚴重的案件,顯然並不能令人滿意的。

基於這個及其他原因, Her Britannic Majesty’s Supreme Court for China and Japan(下稱「SCCJ」) 於1865年於上海成立,以便接管香港最高法院的職能。成立該法院,是作為中國和日本的領事法庭的上訴法院。此外,它亦獲賦予在上海地區進行一審的司法管轄權,以及有權審理嚴重的刑事和大宗的民事案件。該法院的法官都必須在中國和日本巡迴審理上訴和一審案件。自1871年開始,一個專門法院在上海的英國領事館的建築群內興建,而該幢建築物至今仍屹立不倒。

香港的法院和治外法權

不過,香港最高法院並沒有完全失去在中國的域外司法管轄權。它保留了域外司法管轄權,審理在其邊界10英里範圍內與英國公民有關的案件,並將其當時的司法管轄權從九龍半島延伸至九龍的其他部分,即現屬於新界的部分地方。1898年,新界租約生效後,這一司法管轄權擴展至今天的深圳。

自1865年起,香港最高法院和SCCJ作為兩個相互獨立的法院,前者適用香港的法律,並對香港居民有司法管轄權,後者則適用英國法律,對在中國和日本的英國公民有司法管轄權(以及自1878年起對在韓國的英國公民有司法管轄權)。1899年,治外法權在日本結束,而該法庭也因此成為Supreme Court for China and Corea;日本於1910年吞併韓國後,它成為了Supreme Court for China(下稱「SCC」)。

在1902年至1930年間,香港最高法院對山東省一小部分地區獲得了上訴司法管轄權。1898年,英國自中國那兒租借威海衛作為一個海軍基地,並使其成為了英國殖民地。SCCJ失去了對威海衛的司法管轄權,並於1902年成立威海衛高等法院(High Court for Weihaiwei)。上訴的司法管轄權歸予香港最高法院,雖然後者似乎從來沒有聆訊過任何上訴案件。

香港最高法院亦保留了司法管轄權審理來自中國的案件,假使該些案件是由SCC移交的話。1912年,根據上海的一位首席大法官Sir Havilland de Sausmarez所簽署的手令,R v Ibrahim [1913] HKLR 1; [1914] AC 599一案被移交到香港的法院審理。

該案中,伊巴謙(Ibrahim)是一名在英軍服役並駐守廣州的阿富汗士兵,他被裁定謀殺其指揮官罪名成立。該案件在樞密院審結,至今仍是一項涉及就向處於權威地位的人士作出自願供認的一項主導裁決。儘管該案屬於香港最高法院的裁決,但它亦成為SCC的域外司法管轄權的一項主導裁決。

由於伊巴謙並非英國人,在審訊過程中,Rees-Davies CJ將有關法院是否具司法管轄權審理伊巴謙的法律問題留給香港的合議庭(Hong Kong Full Court)處理,更有趣的是,由於當時中國剛剛爆發辛亥革命,伊巴謙認為那些賦予治外法權的條約不再有效。香港最高法院及其後的樞密院頒下了一篇冗長的裁決來界定SCC的權利和權力,同時將其上訴駁回。

有趣的是,儘管樞密院所審理並作出裁決的該宗上訴案件,原是一宗來自香港最高法院負責審理的案件,但該宗上訴案件的裁決對香港並沒有產生約束力,原因是香港最高法院行使了SCC的域外司法管轄權,而SCC適用英國法律而非香港法律。

上海法官赴港

Ibrahim案還有最後一個轉折。該案的首次上訴聆訊是在1912年11月25日。如果它是在六天後或更晚的時間開始(即1912年12月1日或之後),則該上訴將會由SCC的首席大法官Sir Havilland de Sausmarez以香港合議庭庭長的身份進行審理。

在1912年以前,香港最高法院只有兩位法官-一位首席大法官及一位法官。就該位法官或首席大法官所作的裁決提出上訴,須由該位首席大法官進行覆核,並且可向樞密院提出上訴。顯然,這個安排並不令人滿意,尤其是關於首席大法官覆核他自身的裁決方面。Sir Francis Piggott身為首席大法官,其表現受到官員及律師嚴厲批評(具諷刺意味的是,他是一位著名的治外法權專家),當中包括如下評論:「這是眾人皆知的事情:如果一名當事人希望勝訴,延聘一位特定的律師及一位特定的大律師,而他們兩人都得到首席大法官的青睞,這是明智的做法」:P Wesley-Smith, ‘Sir Francis Piggott, Chief Justice of his own cause’ (1982) 12 HKLJ 260, 276-7。

1912年,法庭決定設立一個由三位法官組成的合議庭審理上訴。通過外交部(專責SCC的事務)和殖民地部 (專責香港的事務)之間所訂立的協議,雙方同意成立香港的合議庭後,SCC的法官將會在香港的合議庭審理案件。

這項建議並不受到香港商界的歡迎,理由是在香港委任第三位全職法官,遠比由一位法官每六個月從上海前來香港審理案件15天更為合適。此外,香港商界亦關注到來自上海的法官對於治外法權所具備的經驗。Mr Osborne在參與立法局辯論時曾這樣說:「…在香港法院審理案件的上海法官須具備什麼資歷呢?香港的訴訟主要涉及華人之間的糾紛,當中往往涉及中國習俗和中國會計方法…另外,來自上海的法官,其司法管轄權完全局限於英國公民或是以英國公民作為被告人身上…一位經驗受到如此局限的法官,他是否真的具有足夠資格,可以每年僅花兩個短時期在香港的法院審理案件。」~《香港立法局辯論》,1912年6月6日,頁49。

雖然其他人也反對這項建議, 但它仍然獲得通過, 從1 9 1 2 年到1 9 4 3 年這段期間,SCC的法官有權在香港的合議庭審理案件。庭長的職位指定由資歷最高的法官擔任。隨著Sir Francis Piggott剛剛辭去法官職務, 具有較深厚資歷的Sir Havilland de Sausmarez(當時的SCC法官)出任香港合議庭庭長,直至1920年才退休。

當de Sausmarez法官退休後,隨後來自上海的SCC法官亦在香港合議庭審理案件,而他們所作的判決全都刊載於《香港法律判例匯編》(Hong Kong Law Reports)。

香港法官赴滬

直至1926年以前,上海實行的上訴制度與香港在1912年之前所實行的制度相同,即由法官覆核其自身的裁決或是助理法官所作的裁決,並可最終上訴至樞密院。1926年,上海的最高法院亦建立了與香港的模式相同的合議庭,當中由兩位上海的法官與一位來自香港的法官聯合組成一個合議庭。只有來自合議庭所作的裁決,才可向樞密院提出上訴。

1926年10月8日,上海合議庭的首兩宗上訴聆訊是由來自上海的Sir Skinner Turner及Peter Grain以及來自香港的Sir Henry Gollan CJ負責審理。這個組合受到當地媒體歡迎,稱其為「一項重要的革新」以及「法院程序邁出了非常重要的一步」:《北華捷報》(1926年10月16日),126。第一宗上訴案乃合約申索,案中涉及三名俄羅斯人及一名中國人所擁有的一家木材公司,就是否存在購買或資助購買木材的合約義務,向一家英國公司提起訴訟。第二宗上訴案件是就一名錫克教徒Hasura Singh被控向另一名錫克教徒Jagat Singh造成身體嚴重傷害被裁定罪名立而提出的上訴。最後該宗上訴被駁回:同上

1920年代中期,中國處於非常動盪的時期。國民黨成功地從他們在廣東省根據地向北部推進,並接管了部分外國租界,並開始建立一個有效的國民政府。此外,他們也努力結束治外法權。由中國及外國列強組成的調查法權委員會(Extraterritoriality Commission)於1926年成立,就如何結束治外法權作出匯報。中國的民族主義已顯得十分強烈。

這種民族主義導致一名被取消律師資格的英國大律師Lawrence Kentwell以及一名SCC的司法常務官Gilbert King之間在SCC產生一段有趣的交流。Kentwell的母親是中國人,他因未能按時支付判定債項而被逮捕。他向法院所擁有的司法管轄權提出挑戰,理由是他已放棄英國公民身份,並申請成為中國人。Kentwell表示:「我身為一名中國公民,要求應獲得當局立即釋放。這再次在中國實行砲艦政策」:《北華捷報》(1937年2月5日),301。在Kentwell發洩了一些怒火後,最後司法常務官King說道,「我並不建議表現得像一艘司法砲艦,但我必須遵循法律」:同上

事實上,在中國遵守英國法律,King及所有其他法官事實上就是司法砲艦,而在這個時候英國政府正準備允許他歸航回國。從1927 年到1930年間,英國繼續與中國就終止治外法權進行談判,而到了1930年,兩國原則上達成了協議。然而,這項協議並沒有生效,因為日本侵略中國北部,導致這個問題被放在次要位置,並因此將法院的運作延長多十年。這段期間位於中國的英國法院繼續運作,而香港的法官,包括Sir Joseph Kemp和Lindsell J,則定期前往上海,並在上海的合議庭審理案件。

在SCC的合議庭聆訊最後一次上訴案件是在1941年8月4日,而該案名稱為R v Patrick John MacKellar (FO 1092/337),主審法官是Mossop J和Grant Jones AJ,以及來自香港的首席大法官Athol MacGregor。案中MacKellar被指挪用公款。他的上訴遭駁回,對他的各項定罪再被確認,但刑期減為18個月監禁,並須就每項控罪接受勞役,所有刑期同期執行,自定罪當日起計:見‘Hong Kong Judge’ Full court Note Book 9 Dec 1933 to [blank]’, UK National Archives, p 54-63。由於Mackellar在中日戰爭即將爆發前獲得減刑,他只在獄中服刑多四個月。

砲艦導致的終結

1941年12月8日,日本向英美宣戰。同日清晨,日本要求HMS Peterel(當時唯一駐守上海的英國海軍艦艇)的船長投降,但被船長一口拒絕,並喊道:「我們是寧死不屈的!」幾分鐘後,日本戰艦HIJMSIdzumo將HMS Peterel擊沉:見Greg Leck, Captives of Empire: The Japanese Internment of Allied Civilians in China, 1941-1945 (2006)。

當日早上11時,香港最高法院的處所被日本海軍佔領。該法院的法官Sir Allan Mossop和Sir Penrhyn Grant Jones、Crown Advocate John McNeill以及其他法院工作人員,都被拘留在Cathay Hotel 或他們自己的家中,直到1942年8月,他們才被撤離到英國:見J Mossop, Report Relating to His Britannic Majesty’s Supreme Court in Japanese Occupied China, (24 September 1942, FO369/2719)。

事實上,SCC自1941年12月起便停止運作,以後也沒有再恢復運作。

後記

返回香港的McGregor CJ並沒有如上海的法官那麼幸運;在戰爭期間,他被拘禁在赤柱戰俘營,而他及其他裁判官依然在營內審理案件:見Argus(1943年5 月25日),頁12。

於1943年簽署的一項條約,使英國在中國的治外法權劃上句號,另亦通過樞密院令(Order in Council)將SCC關閉。SCC的判決為中國法院所承認,而相關紀錄亦在中國存放了10年。中國於1984年交回該些紀錄,現時全部紀錄存放於倫敦的英國國家檔案局。

John McNeill在戰後重返亞洲。在一段短暫期間,他在南京的英國駐華大使館工作,並協助上海國際公共租界(Shanghai International Settlement)的善後工作,之後便移居香港,並擔任執業大律師超過10年。他後來獲委任為御用大律師,並在1952年成為香港大律師公會第四任主席,並在不同時期合共出任了四屆香港大律師公會主席,直至1960年榮休。當時年紀尚輕的烈顯倫剛剛開始在香港執業,他繼任為Mr McNeill的書記,據Mr McNeill的回憶,他是一名非常稱職的書記。Mr McNeill的女兒Jane於1952年下嫁Earl of Dalkeith,而剛登基的英女王亦有出席他們的婚禮。Jane於2011年去世,並獲封為Duchess of Bucchleuch and Queensberry:見The Telegraph的「訃告」(2011年5月13日)。

 

 

馬錦德
大律師
Gilt Chambers
doug@douglas-clark.com

 

作者的著作Gunboat Justice將於本年較後時間推出,並由Earnshaw Books出版。他樂於獲得任何關於中國治外法權法院的資料。


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