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Twenty Occupy activists, including student leaders Joshua Wong Chi-fung and Lester Shum, claimed the Department of Justice did not follow procedures in prosecuting them for contempt of court and called for

their summonses to be discharged, the High Court heard on Thursday.

Barrister Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC, representing Wong and six other activists, said the department failed to apply for a trial date within 14 days of the summonses being served, as stipulated by requirements, and the summonses should therefore “lapse”.

READ MORE: 17 Occupy activists charged with contempt over Mong Kok clearance urge judge to throw out case

“It is immaterial that the failure is, as alleged, caused by mere oversight or misunderstanding ... Ignorance or mistaken understanding of legislation has never been accepted as an excuse for failure to comply [with the time limit],” said Lok.

The only remedy open to the department would be “the commencement of fresh proceedings”, said Lok.

But Hectar Pun Hei SC, representing another six activists, argued that the department did not intend to file fresh applications, because it had not paid the prescribed filing fees.

The department sought to argue that non-compliance with the 14-day limit was an irregularity, rather than a nullity, and that the court had powers to grant a fresh order or extension of time within the same proceedings after the summons lapsed.

“The purpose of the time-limit rule was not to nullify the proceedings,” said Benjamin Yu SC, for the department.

READ MORE: Occupy activists arrested for obstructing Mong Kok clearance have summons discharged

Yu added that the legal action to be brought against the activists was intended to protect the administration of justice.

But barrister Albert N. B. Wong, for the remaining seven activists, argued that strict compliance of procedures was required for criminal contempt proceedings to protect the interests of the activists.

The activists, including League of Social Democrats vice-chairman Raphael Wong Ho-ming, attended the hearing for allegedly obstructing the work of bailiffs clearing occupied roads in Mong Kok on November 26, 2014 in line with a court order.

The hearing continues on Friday before Mr Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming.

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