Court operations also impacted by pandemic – Court of Final Appeal President

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the operations of all courts in the Macau SAR, the President of the Court of Final Appeal (TUI), Sam Hou Fai, stated today (Wednesday) at the opening of the 2020/2021 judicial year.

According to the judge, border entry restrictions also led to the delay of several trial sessions, as some people involved who do not reside in the Macau SAR were not able to come to the city to attend proceedings.

“Still, in general terms, the conclusion rate of different trials proceedings in the three main court instances were t the same level of last year, while the number of pending trial cases has been reduced,” the judge added.

The number of pending cases in the three court instances has decreased by 78 cases from the previous year to some 13,156, with some 20,078 cases concluded, less 1,650 than in 2019.

In total, about 20,000 case proceedings were initiated this year, less 7.6 per cent year-on-year, but with the TUI seeing an increase.

The judge also noted that the pandemic led to an increase in fraud and online fraud trial cases, many involving the sale of medical products.

“On the other hand transport restrictions between Macau and neighbouring cities, especially with Hong Kong, led to more discrete drug trafficking operations,” the judge added.

At the same time, five cases of breaching mandatory quarantine and 18 cases involving fake health status declarations were also admitted by the courts, with 12 concluded.

As in last year, the top judge addressed the difficulty in replacing many experienced judges who are preparing to retire.

“For this reason, reinforcement in the training of judges and increase in the professional quality of new judges is a problem that requires our utmost attention,” he added.

Several Portuguese magistrates have reached their retirement age in recent years, with some new replacement appointments announced.

The need for more training for legal employees and more vacancies for legal degrees was also addressed by the TUI President.

Still, Sam Hou Fai noted that since the handover of the city to Chinese administration, the number of judges has increased from 23 to 46, while legal staff rose from 100 to 240 with the shortage of legal professionals in the city “basically resolved”.