statistics but also analyses of consumer satisfaction, assessments of the impact of new laws, and general research on the operation of their Family Courts.
12.18We also note that section 62 of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance, (Cap 486) gives a specific exemption from the provision of data protection principles where data is kept for preparing statistics or carrying out research, the data is not used for any other purpose and the resulting statistics and research are not made available in a form that identifies the data subjects.
12.19It would be very useful for the Law Reform Commission and for policymakers if statistics were kept, and research conducted, in the Family Court. We recommend that statistics of the number of custody, access or guardianship cases, including the numbers settled, and when they were settled, should be kept by the Family Court. This would assist in the planning of policies and their implementation.
Availability of judgments and privacy
12.20We understand that family law practitioners are concerned about the paucity of judgments in family cases that are officially reported in Hong Kong. There are various reasons why this is so. Family cases are heard in chambers and there are some statutory provisions and a Practice Direction that restrict the availability of such judgments. Order 90 rule 4B of the Rules of the High Court provides that an application to make a minor a ward of court may be disposed of in chambers. Rule 7 makes similar provision for guardianship cases. Certainly the practice is to consider disputes concerning children in chambers.
12.21If the court has given guidance on the interpretation of matrimonial ordinances in a previous case, having access to a report of that judgment may assist family law practitioners in advising their clients on possible courses of action, including the settlement of cases. It can encourage some consistency of approach, and enhance the predictability of outcomes, which assists early resolution of issues in dispute. Even though there may be less reliance on precedents in guardianship and custody cases than in other areas of law,1181 it would still be useful to increase the number of reported judgments in this area.
12.22Practice Direction No. 27, Reports on Chamber Proceedings, provides that “no report should be made of any proceedings (including the judgment) held in Chambers (which are private proceedings) without the authority of the judge before whom the proceedings were conducted”. If the judge considers that it should be released for publication, the parties can make representations to him.
12.23The Report of the Working Party on Civil Proceedings conducted in private1182 stated that Practice Direction No. 27 had fallen into disuse. Generally most reasoned judgments were available in the High Court Library for public inspection. “Judgments of an obviously confidential nature, such as those issued in
1181 This is because the decision of the judge has to meet the best interests of that particular child.
1182 It reported on 27 March 1997.