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Kevin Paul Zervos SC (Chinese: 薛偉成, born November 1953) is a judge of the High Court of Hong Kong. He previously served as Director of Public Prosecutions of the Department of Justice of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from March 2011 to September 2013.
Zervos was a veteran of frontline criminal prosecutions spanning two decades and had a reputation of being a formidable criminal courtroom advocate and human rights specialist.
Personal life and education
Zervos, a Melbourne-born Australian expatriate of Greek descent, made his name as one of the Hong Kong Government's most prolific senior advocates, leading the charge in many of the most controversial cases before courts at all levels with many successes against the best that the HKSAR's criminal bar can muster.
In 1984, Zervos began work in Australia with the Special Prosecutor's office responsible for the investigation and prosecution of large scale revenue frauds. From 1985, he was Senior Assistant Director of the office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions at the Melbourne and Sydney offices where he was in charge of the Major Fraud Section. From 1989 to 1992, he was General Counsel to the Independent Commission Against Corruption in New South Wales before moving to Hong Kong.
In 1992, Zervos joined the then Attorney General's Chambers in Hong Kong, initially attached to the Commercial Crime Unit specialising in white-collar crime, then as Head of Appeals specialising in Human Rights, and later as Chief of Staff of the department's Prosecutions Division. In May 2003, Zervos was appointed as Senior Counsel in Hong Kong. He became Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions in 2008. Zervos has prosecuted in many high-profile cases, including the brutal assassination of a triad hit squad of a key ICAC witness in one of the world's biggest tobacco-smuggling cases, complex fraud and corruption cases and human and constitutional rights appeals. He has been described as giving "the impression that he likes to keep things clean by getting his hands dirty".
After taking office as DPP, Zervos was "determined to respond to growing public demands for more transparency in the justice system" in Hong Kong. The department's Prosecutions Division, under Zervos' leadership, held its first and second Prosecutions Week in 2012 and 2013, as an initiative to "reach out to the community, especially the young, to explain and discuss the criminal justice system and to strengthen the commitment to the rule of law." The department also organised the first Criminal Law Conference 2012 which Zervos hoped would serve as "the catalyst for positive reform of the Hong Kong criminal justice system" by putting together topics for discussion to identify possible areas for reform.
The Chairman of the Law Society's Criminal Law and Procedure Committee, Stephen Hung Wan-shun, praised him for making the Hong Kong criminal justice system more transparent and for increasing communication between the department and defence lawyers. He noted that Zervos was "open to different views" and more active than his predecessors in attending court sessions instead of sitting in his office."
Zervos was also keen to help newly qualified lawyers in an increasingly competitive profession. The Chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association, Kumar Ramanathan SC, applauded "the strong support, commitment and co-operation by the DPP to help the junior end of the Bar. From 2011, the department organised training to enable newly qualified barristers and solicitors to undertake fiat prosecution work in the magistracies and to enable junior barristers to be instructed with senior counsel to prosecute in some difficult or complex cases.
Zervos is a staunch supporter of human rights. Prompted by growing concern over international human trafficking, the department launched an initiative in 2013 to record and map cases of sex trafficking, enforced labour and abused domestic helpers. In September 2011, Zervos decided not to prosecute 109 out of 113 protesters arrested during an anti-budget demonstration in March that year but wrote to them instead to remind them that demonstrations should be peaceful.
He also believes the city may need a law to ban the taking of upskirt pictures and intimate shots of victims in private places, and has voiced his concerns in this regard to the Privacy Commissioner.
Zervos also advocated compassion for some first time offenders of minor crimes. "I can see the positive effects of treating [first-time offenders] in a just and compassionate way. It is important to give a person a second chance and not to break their spirit. When you [give them a reprieve] the chances are they don't reoffend and you won't see them in the criminal court again," Zervos said. "We are mainly talking about people coming before the court for the first time – sometimes they are young, foolish; sometimes they are mature people who act out of character and do something foolish."
Retirement as DPP
Zervos retired as DPP on 8 September 2013. Before his retirement as DPP, the Hong Kong Bar Association has expressed its gratitude to Zervos "for his outstanding service and contribution to the community, the Rule of Law and administration of justice in Hong Kong". The Secretary for Justice of Hong Kong, Rimsky Yuen SC has also extended his gratitude to Zervos for his valuable service in the justice department for over 21 years. "During his tenure as the DPP, he has strived to uphold the rule of law by handling prosecutions in a just and impartial manner. He has also been active in promoting community awareness of the rule of law by organising a number of public activities,' said the justice chief, adding that Zervos' "outstanding performance has won the recognition and praise of the Government as well as members of the legal profession."
Appointment as High Court Judge
As Zervos was the DPP in the Department of Justice prior to the appointment, he could not, for six months after joining the Judiciary, deal with any criminal trials or appeals or any civil cases involving the Government.
- "Appointment of Director of Public Prosecutions (with photo)". Government of Hong Kong. 25 March 2011. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- "薛偉成續掌刑檢帥印一年". Sing Tao Daily. 1 June 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
- Niall Fraser, The case for a new prosecution, South China Morning Post, 2 June 2011.
- Note 1
- Note 4
- Welcome address by the Director of Public Prosecutions at the Opening Ceremony of the Prosecutions Week 2013, Department of Justice, 21 June 2013.
- Zervos, K, Welcome Message from the Director of Public Prosecutions, Postscript: Criminal Law Conference 2012, Prosecutions Division, P.4
- Patsy Moy, Bench Seat for Action Man Lawyer?, South China Morning Post, 17 December 2012.
- Note 10
- Speech of the Chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association at the Opening of the Legal Year 2012, 9 January 2012.
- Jennifer Cheng and Xenia Chan, New strategy to close the net of sex traffickers in Hong Kong, South China Morning Post, 10 March 2013.
- Cheung, Lam and Wan, Budget Protesters Escape Prosecution, South China Morning Post, 3 September 2011.
- Simpson Cheung, DPP says upskirt pics and intimate shots may need to be banned, South China Morning Post, 6 November 2012.
- Stuart Lau, "Top Prosecutor Kevin Zervos calls for leniency for first-time offenders", South China Morning Post, 24 December 2012
- Press Release, Hong Kong Bar Association, 2 August 2013. http://hkba.org/whatsnew/misc/20130802%20-%20HKBA%20Press%20Statement%20on%20new%20DPP...2.8.13.pdf
- Press statement, "Secretary for Justice speaks about appointment of DPP", 1 August 2013.
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