Women's groups fear offenders will take advantage of legal loophole
Women's groups have expressed outrage over the court's decision, which they say will open the door for acquittal for any men accused of having sex with under-age girls.
Irene Ng Wai-ching, the service co-ordinator of the Association Concerning Sexual Violence Against Women, said Eastern Court Magistrate William Ng Sing-wai had yesterday set a dangerous legal precedent.
Ms Ng said the sex offenders could now take advantage of a loophole in the law to fight their cases in courts, which would also lead to the unnecessary reliving of the trauma suffered by the sex victims. Many defendants could pretend that they have no knowledge of their sexual partner's age, Ms Ng said.
She added if a man genuinely believed or was tricked into believing that his sexual partner was not under age, this could only be used in mitigation but not as a defence of his crime.
Leung Mei-yuk, spokeswoman for the Hong Kong Association for the Supervisor of Women Abuse (Kwan Fook), said: 'How could you possibly let go a sex offender by simply judging from the appearance of a girl? Does it mean that if a girl looks more mature, she would be less likely to be believed by courts?'
Lawyer Stephen Hung Wan-shun said the ruling created a confusion in the law as the magistrate's findings were not binding on colleagues or other levels of the court system.
Barrister Clive Grossman SC said the ruling seemed to be sensible because it has always been in the law that the basis of criminal culpability has been guilty knowledge.