Magistrate who got it wrong chided

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 September, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 September, 1996, 12:00am

A High Court judge yesterday accused a magistrate of adopting a high-handed attitude and acting contrary to the law by ordering a man to attend a hearing.

Mr Justice Raymond Sears said a law which had existed for 40 years made it clear that driver David Chain Chi-woo, 46, did not have to appear.

The judge said special magistrate Polly Lo Hang-fook had even threatened to issue a warrant for Chain's arrest.

The motorist had received a summons for careless driving.

Instead of attending Western Court himself for the hearing on May 29, he sent his barrister to enter a plea of guilty on his behalf.

But Ms Lo demanded that Chain appear in person, the court heard.

Mr Justice Sears said a law had been brought to Ms Lo's attention which clearly stated that a defendant in a case of this kind did not have to attend if he sent a solicitor or barrister in his place.

But Ms Lo had insisted he must be there. She adjourned the case so he could attend on the next occasion.

Chain instructed another barrister, Raymond Chow, to take the case to the High Court in order to have the magistrate's decision overturned.

Cheung Wai-sun, for the Crown, accepted that the magistrate had been wrong.

Mr Justice Sears overturned her decision and re-listed the case. He said Chain was generous not to ask for costs.

The judge said special magistrates are not trained in the law. It seemed a pity that if they had a problem there was no one for them to discuss it with.

'What this magistrate was doing was taking a high-handed attitude to try to force someone to turn up quite contrary to the law,' he added.

Chief Magistrate Anthony To Kwai-fung said special magistrates could always ask for help from the principal magistrate at the court where they were sitting.

He would look into the matter once he had seen Mr Sears' judgment.

Last Friday, Mr Justice Simon Mayo apologised on behalf of the Judiciary for another special magistrate, Julianna Chow, who had unlawfully ordered a motorist into jail pending judgment in a reckless driving case.