Hong Kong’s High Court has dropped criminal contempt charges against 17 activists on procedural grounds.
Justice Anderson Chow ruled that the Department of Justice (DOJ) failed to file a summons within 14 days of application.
The deadline lapsed on April 4, according to public broadcaster RTHK.
DOJ barrister Victor Dawes sought a deadline extension by invoking the High Court’s discretionary powers but the request was denied even though the judge accepted that the procedural trip-up was an oversight.
The judge ordered the DOJ to pay court costs.
Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen would not say whether the DOJ was remiss.
He said it will decide whether to appeal the verdict.
Earlier, defense lawyers argued against any extension.
Hectar Pun said the DOJ was responsible for lack of supervision over the case.
Barrister Gerard McCoy SC, arguing for the defendants, said the court’s discretionary powers could not be exercised under the rules and sought the dismissal of all charges.
The defendants were charged after obstructing bailiffs who were clearing a protest area in Argyle Street on Nov. 25 last year.
Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok, who represents the legal functional constituency, said he was surprised that the DOJ had made such a simple mistake.
Any DOJ appeal would be unfair to the defendants, he said.
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