EOC Chairperson addresses misunderstanding around the Commission’s legal services
In response to allegations made during a public hearing at a recent meeting of the Legislative Council’s Panel on Constitutional Affairs that the legal assistance provided by EOC was limited, Prof Alfred CHAN Cheung-ming, Chairperson of the EOC, published an online article on Stand News and InMedia on 23 July to address misguided views about the Commission’s Legal Services Division (LSD) and explain its scope of work.
Under the current anti-discrimination ordinances, a complainant can apply for legal assistance from the EOC when the complaint cannot be resolved through conciliation. Since whether to apply for legal assistance or not is ultimately a decision on the part of the complainant and beyond the control of the EOC, the number of such applications should not be the yardstick for measuring the LSD’s performance. Indeed, the figure does not reflect the full picture of the LSD’s work, which encompasses legal representation for successful applicants, legal advice to enquiry and complaint-handling staff, vetting of contracts and agreements, drafting of Codes of Practices, as well as review of anti-discrimination laws.
The Legal and Complaints Committee (LCC), operating since the establishment of the EOC and composed of the EOC Chairperson and Members of the EOC Board, is responsible for reviewing all applications for legal assistance. Consideration is given to whether or not the case raises a question of principle, strength of the evidence, and whether the case has the potential to set an important legal precedent, among other factors. From 2015 to 2017, the EOC received 112 applications under the four anti-discrimination ordinances, 57% of which (i.e. 64 cases) were approved by the LCC, a percentage significantly higher than that registered by the Legal Aid Department (i.e. 30%) in processing similar applications from 2014 to 2016.
Members of the public who are interested in knowing more about the EOC’s legal services are encouraged to visit the Commission’s official website.