The Court of Final Appeal is the final appellate court within the court system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
In addition, it plays an important part in the development of the common law in Hong Kong.
The court was established on 1 July 1997, upon the commencement of the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal Ordinance (Cap.484).
It replaced the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London as the highest appellate court in Hong Kong after 30 June 1997.
The Court of Final Appeal may as required invite judges from other common law jurisdictions to sit on the court and a number of distinguished judges from the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand have sat and continue to sit as members of the court.
The court hears appeals involving important questions of law, including in particular points of public and constitutional importance, or where leave to appeal has otherwise been granted for some special reason. Further information on the circumstances in which cases come before the Court of Final Appeal can be found here.
Final appeals are heard by the full Court consisting of 5 judges comprising:
If the Chief Justice does not sit in an appeal, a permanent judge will be designated to sit in place of the Chief Justice and to preside at the hearing. In that event, the other 2 permanent judges will sit with an overseas non-permanent judge and also 1 non-permanent Hong Kong judge. Similarly, if a permanent judge is unable to sit, a non-permanent Hong Kong judge will sit in place of that permanent judge.
Overseas non-permanent judges come on a rotational basis for a month at a time. The rotation is an administrative matter determined by the Chief Justice. Similarly, the selection of a non-permanent Hong Kong judge to sit in the full Court or Appeal Committee is an administrative matter determined by the Chief Justice.
Applications for leave to appeal are heard by the Appeal Committee consisting of three members of the Court, namely:
If there is an insufficient number of permanent judges available to sit, a non-permanent Hong Kong judge will be nominated to form the Appeal Committee.