Conviction gets short shrift over short pants

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2005, 12:00am

A man whose short pants singled him out in an identity parade has had a jail term of four years and nine months thrown out after a court found significant problems with the way he was identified.

Li Shui-tung had been found guilty of wounding a man in an apparent payback by members of the Wo Shing Wo triad society.

But the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction and sentence after finding the District Court judge had been wrong to disallow defence questioning over the identity of the person who said Li was the attacker, and discovering Li was picked out of an identity parade at which he was the only person who wasn't wearing long pants.

Those two issues raised 'grave doubts' in the mind of the court as to the safety of the conviction.

The prosecution had relied on the evidence of the victim, an apparent 14K triad member, who was admitted to hospital after being chopped by three men in Yuen Long on April 5 last year.

At the time, the victim described one of his attackers as 'a bit plump, of height 1.8 metres' and wearing grey. About two months later, he told police a friend had told him the man in grey was a Wo Shing Wo member known as 'Tong of Nam Bin Wai'. Police arrested Li and the victim picked him out in an identity parade.

But at trial, the victim refused to name the person who had given him the name 'Tong' and the presiding judge had prevented the defence from pursuing that line of questioning on the grounds that it was a triad-related incident and the source needed protection.

The Court of Appeal found the questioning should have been allowed for the very reason that it was a triad matter, especially since Li had allegedly testified against a member of 14K, and the main witness - the victim - had apparently identified himself as 14K shortly before being attacked.

The conviction was dismissed without prospect of a retrial.