About Keith 賀傑峰

‘For some people education is a value in itself, something to be sought after because the more educated we are, the more civilised we become. Through education we become better people, more sensitive, able to appreciate the true and the beautiful, able to find sophisticated pleasures in the world; we become better citizens.’  – Prof Ian Craib – my university tutor.
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Keith Hotten – I have been a barrister for 27 years, having been Called to the Bar of England & Wales in 1990 (Middle Temple) and Hong Kong in 2000 – as a practising lawyer I represent private clients in family and children’s matters as well as undertaking criminal defence and prosecution work. As Dr. H. – academia loves titles and lists of degrees – I am also very privileged to teach in the Faculty of Law at the University of Hong Kong where I run a post-graduate course in ‘Matrimonial Practice and Procedure’ as well as teaching criminal law and professional practice. I am an Associate Academic at Manchester Metropolitan University and also a CEDR and HKIAC accredited mediator, I conduct mediations for private clients in family and wider civil litigation disputes. I am actively involved in promoting all aspects of ADR (alternative dispute resolution) in Hong Kong. I am a member of the Examining Panel of the Higher Rights Assessment Board (2012- present).

賀傑峰我當了大律師已經超過22年。早於1990年在英國和威爾士(Middle Temple) 2000年在香港獲得大律師資格。作為執業律師,我主要處理家事和兒童事務,以及在刑事案件中當辯護律師。

作為H博士我很榮幸在香港大學法律系執教鞭,負責一個研究生課程-婚姻訴訟和程序(Matrimonial Practice and Procedure)、刑事法(Criminal Law)和專業實踐(Professional Practice)另外作為一位英國糾紛解決中心(CEDR和香港國際仲裁中心認可調解員,我除了為私人客戶在家事糾紛進行調解之外,也替更廣泛的民事訴訟糾紛進行調解。在香港,我積極參與及促進各訴訟外紛爭解決制度(替代性糾紛解決)。我也是較高級法院出庭發言權評核委員會(2012)成員之一。

Unlike most of my contemporaries I already had greying hair by the time I signed the Call book at the Middle Temple – a very proud day for my parents, particularly my mother, who struggled breathless into the Middle Temple Hall knowing she was dying from cancer. Having purchased a new three-piece suit so expensive it could only have been made from the chest hairs of a privately educated sheep, I completed a year in pupillage in Building and Construction Law at 39 Essex Street. After that, initially merely to get some court advocacy experience – to coin a phrase – I turned to crime and later children’s law and divorce and have not looked back since. So my slightly late start has been no real disadvantage.  My university education up to doctoral level in social sciences, philosophy and literature I regard as an enormous privilege that has, perhaps to a greater extent than study of the law, shaped the person I am. Closer to the legal process, my work as a research assistant for several (Labour) MPs at the House of Commons in London between 1984 to 1988 (whilst undertaking my doctoral research on British socialist economic and industrial policy) gave me a tremendous insight into the (often politically brutal) way legislation comes on to the statute books. And all this before I ever opened law text-book as a post-post-post-graduate, aged 32.

In America the study of law is predominately a post-graduate discipline that I am beginning to think may be a better system for producing more rounded legal professionals than embarking on an LLB at eighteen years old. By contrast in the UK there are moves afoot to turn the clock back to the pre-1970s when training for the legal profession fell outside university education completely. Whilst the study of law (like medicine) obviously requires academic ability, the practice of law – (like surgery) is mostly about ‘skills’ (advocacy, drafting, negotiation, client care, professional conduct, etc.) that can be learned like any other and once acquired mainly require a large measure of common sense to employ.

Either way, my guess is it is at least possible to be a competent lawyer without having read much outside the law but I am increasingly sceptical. Certainly I have never met anyone I regard as great lawyer or an original, innovative, or resourceful one who is not also widely read.  Although I have met many crashing bores of the first order who can talk of nothing else but their day in court – invariably on a set of facts that would shine the limelight on any fledgling advocate with a good case. On the other hand I have certainly had the pleasure of being in the company of many top lawyers – academics, solicitors, counsel and judges – who are obviously well read and highly educated in the broadest sense and invariably with a wicked sense of humour. In my experience the humourless are always to be avoided like the plague and humourless lawyers particularly so. Many of our judges are often highly entertaining in private. Although it is apparently true that one English High Court judge did once enquire: ‘Who is Gazza?’ – at the height of his fame – the idea that our senior judges are Dickensian stereotypes and often wont to inquire:  ‘… and what, precisely, is a “Kyle Minogue”?’ is, at least in my experience, pure fiction. As much a part of popular mythology as having them spluttering from the bench in a powdered wig whilst banging a gavel – Hong Kong and English judges have never, ever, used gavels.

My main areas of research are Family and Matrimonial Law, including Child Law, Matrimonial Finance & Property (ancillary relief), Criminal Law & Evidence and Alternative Dispute Resolution. Although my wonderful children often have other ideas – I try to find the time to follow my other interests – Moto GP and World Superbikes, wine, cooking and film and of course cricket and football – my first love is reading biography, modern history and politics as well as modern English and American literature. More recently – not that I pretend to really understand any of it – I have been reading the truly mind-bending science of astronomy, cosmology and the origins of the universe as popularised by such amazing teachers as Brian Cox (‘entropy’ is my new favourite word) and the utterly brilliant Lawrence Krauss – whose book and ‘something from nothing‘ lectures I find endlessly fascinating. Indeed although I was alienated from science by dreadful teaching at school I find reading around the topic of ‘reason & science’ generally occupies an increasing amount of my free time – as here, for example, with Sam Harris’ lecture at Oxford University. Edwin Hubble, incidentally, trained and was in practice as a lawyer before taking his doctorate in astronomy at the University of Chicago.

Like these scientists I find no difficulty in  asserting my atheism. Indeed since 9/11 I have felt it my duty to do so. The godly are proud to publicly display their faith – why should atheists not protest their doubts? My own view of religion – that is all religions and any belief in the supernatural, however described – was summed up perfectly by H. L Mencken, when he wrote that ‘Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration: courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth.’ Many of the writers and commentators whose books sit proudly on my own bookshelves – like modern art critic and polymath – the late Robert Hughes in ‘Culture of Complaint’ – (one of my earliest influences) would justifiably claim to have been making these points long before September 2001. Others, like Nick Cohen, have come around to such a world-view more recently. Others whose writing I find particularly courageous given the current climate of intolerance in some quarters include  Salman Rushdie’s recent book ‘Joseph Anton’ and Ayaan Hirsi Ali who is a feminist hero of mine – whose books I will certainly press upon my daughter before she goes to university and would be happy to recommend to anyone.

‘By the end of the evening, all  Keith’s friends were in complete agreement with his views on politics and atheism’

That said, whilst I usually resist the temptation to promote any writer unconditionally, I make one exception – with room-emptying repetition – the late Christopher Hitchens. I have read almost every word he has ever published – some of his books several times over – and, for me at least, he has barely written or spoken a sentence with which I disagree – whether on Bill Clinton and Henry Kissinger on religion or on art and politics generally. His book, tracing his own death from cancer, is one of the most moving and oddly uplifting I have ever read. For those wishing to learn about the man himself his biography ‘Hitch 22’ is a great read and beautifully written. Certainly he is not one to be afraid to say that the ‘king has no clothes’ and one who remained until his death an unapologetic man of the left who never went along with the current fashion for infantile anti-Americanism and anti-Semitic chic. Indeed, he was one of the very few writers on the Left to recognise that tyranny too often arises from the removal of nuance. Like his best friend Martin Amis – also a novelist I like very much as a writer and literary critic – I can read Hitchens just to admire the power and beauty of his writing.  I agree with those who say he is a worthy successor to George Orwell who also understood that whilst the world is undoubtedly a politically complex place, had no difficulty in rejecting the idea that it is divided between many ‘equally valid’ ideologies and philosophies.

But I digress – although it is a rare privilege to find a law student who could name a book by Hitchens, Martin Amis or Saul Bellow let alone have read one – mention of the Long March, Nanking or the Gang of Four will as often draw blank faces as when I mention Auschwitz, Trotsky or the Yom Kippur War. Indeed, I recently did mention Salman Rushdie and The Satanic Verses in the context of the law and free speech, to a sea of mostly blank post-graduate faces. So whether it is King Lear or The Analects, I am not sure it is entirely down to ethnocentrism on my part – although to be fair, as in the former Soviet Union, Trotsky has been entirely airbrushed out of Chinese history. Either way it is somewhat depressing – or maybe it’s just my age. I am firmly of the view that readers and those who read widely are capable of the most empathy and most importantly develop the ability to hold opinions, beliefs and interests apart from their own. The evidence before my eyes however is that young people are increasingly solipsistic and that the ability to become lost in a long novel, for example, is a culture that is dying fast. Certainly the two post-graduate students who recently asked me ‘who is Paul McCartney?’ following a discussion of McCartney v McCartney [2008] EWHC 401 (Fam) in tutorial made me reflect on my mortality.

… or they shop here

It is something I ask my own children – do students actually read history or indeed books of any description these days in order to pass exams? Apparently even English Literature can be passed by reading only parts of novels! And limited parts if – god help us – Terry Eagleton can be ‘Googled’ or is on YouTube. – (great debate with Rodger Scruton on the vulgarisation of culture in our universities though). So, with an eye to an iPad in every classroom (and indeed in every court-room) and with the contents of our lives and libraries limited only by the amount of storage we can attach to a small piece of touch-sensitive glass – by way of encouraging this educational revolution and on the well understood principle of  “if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em” – I am working with colleagues on a project within the Faculty of Law to develop an on-line ‘e-Learning’ platform for the PCLL – and this site is intended to test the waters and make a small contribution to that project.

My Recent Publications:

  • ‘The Hong Kong Family Court Practice’ 2nd Edition (with Azan Marwah & Shaphan Marwah), LexisNexis, (2015), (1600 pp)
  • Halsbury’s Laws of Hong Kong (2nd Edition) ‘Criminal Law & Procedure’ (2015)
  • The Family Law Correspondent – website – 2013
  • Halsbury’s Laws of Hong Kong (2nd Edition) ‘Family Law” (2012), LexisNexis, Vol. 28 (649 pp)
  • Australian Professional Legal Education Council (APLEC) Conference Paper: Is e-learning a boon to the provision of professional legal education or a mere fad? University of Technology, Sydney 10-12 November 2011 with Wilson Chow, Firew Kebede Tiba, and Julienne Jen
  • ‘Right to Family’ Chapter 26 (of 30) The Law of the Hong Kong Constitution Johannes Chan SC (Ed) Sweet & Maxwell 2011, (1011 pp)
  • Halsbury’s Laws of Hong Kong ‘Legal Practitioners’ (2011) Vol. 37 (476 pp.)
  • ‘The Hong Kong Family Court Practice’ LexisNexis, (2010), (1457 pp)
  • ‘Family Law Practice & Procedure in Hong Kong’, LexisNexis, (2010) (450 pp)
  • ‘Taking the Law into our Own Hands: Children & Collaborative Practice in Hong Kong’ Hong Kong Lawyer, (Feb 2009, p.57)
  • ‘The Essential Statutes on Hong Kong Matrimonial Law and Procedure’, LexisNexis (2008) (989 pp)
  • Halsbury’s Laws of Hong Kong ‘Evidence’ (2006) LexisNexis, Vol. 12(1) (451 pp)

Appeal Cases

  • LKW v. DD  FACV 16/2008; (2010) 13 HKCFAR 537  This landmark Court of Final Appeal judgment is now the leading authority on the division of matrimonial assets in ancillary relief cases in Hong Kong.
  • Re F (Contact) [1995] 1 FLR (CA) 510 Family Division Wilson. J
  • Re S [1995] 3 FCR 225 Butler-Sloss P, Simon-Brown, Ward LJJ.
  • R. v Luke Anthony Piggott & Jeffrey Simon Litwin [1999] 2 Cr.App.R (CA) 320 Court of Appeal CA (Crim. Div); [1999] All ER (D) 292, Waller LJ, Walker J and Judge Hyam, The Recorder of London – Criminal law – Indictment – Amendment of indictment – Crown applying to amend indictment after close of its case and after submission of no case to answer – Judge allowing amendment of indictment – Judge ordering re-trial – Whether second trial an abuse of process.
  • R v Ajaib and others CA 28 October 1999 [unreported]