Police boss' secretary loses forced retirement appeal

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 September, 2005, 12:00am

A police commander's secretary lost her appeal against being forced into retirement for being persistently late arriving for work.

Justice Michael Hartmann yesterday dismissed the challenge by Jenny Tang Mei-ling in a judicial review of the decision by the commissioner of police to punish her with compulsory retirement.

Ms Tang started work as a civilian officer with the police in 1998. She was given written warnings between June 1999 and October 2001 for failing to be punctual.

In March 2002, Ms Tang was assigned as a private secretary to the commander of the force's small boat division. However, her habitual lateness to work - ranging from a few minutes to more than 30 minutes - resulted in a disciplinary hearing held by an inquiry committee in May 2003.

She was found by the committee to have been late on 49 occasions between July and November 2002. The committee also found that on two occasions in July 2003 she falsified the attendance register to make it look as if she had arrived on time, despite being 30 minutes late. In March last year, the police commissioner ordered Ms Tang to retire.

Mr Justice Hartmann, in the Court of First Instance, yesterday rejected the contention by Ms Tang's lawyer that she was 'singled out' unfairly.

Ms Tang claimed in her defence before the inquiry committee that other staff members were 'allowed' to come late to work without disciplinary action being taken against them.

But Mr Justice Hartmann said Ms Tang had not provided the inquiry committee or the police commissioner with substantive proof that her other colleagues were late to the extent she was, yet were not subjected to disciplinary action.

He also rejected the argument that the compulsory retirement order was too severe and arbitrary, noting that 'there is no substance in this challenge'.

He observed that despite repeated formal warnings from her boss, Ms Tang continued to be late.

'Averaging out the lateness may give it a banality but it cannot disguise the fact that it consisted of a continuous course of conduct in the face of demands that it ceases,' the judge said.