Lawyer's testimony change on immunity

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2006, 12:00am

A former prosecutor told the District Court a suspect did not necessarily have to be granted immunity from prosecution before she was enrolled in the ICAC's witness protection programme.

Bernard Ryan, former senior assistant director of public prosecutions, was yesterday recalled to court to clarify whether the ICAC sought his approval for granting immunity to Becky Wong Pui-see before she gave her signed consent to participate in the witness protection programme on July 13, 2004.

He was asked to review documents from her Department of Justice file after telling the court last week he could not remember if he had given such approval.

Mr Ryan said yesterday that records showed the ICAC had contacted him on July 9, 2004, for approval to take a non-prejudicial statement from Ms Wong, secretary of listed Semtech International Holdings. 'Basically, when I authorised the taking of a non-prejudicial statement, effectively her status was then being changed from suspect to witness,' he said.

Mr Ryan said it was not until late September that the Department of Justice received Ms Wong's statements from the ICAC, allowing it to consider changing her status from suspect to witness. He said his deputy made a decision on her status, which he countersigned on March 25 last year.

The defence in the case - in which lawyers Kevin Egan and Andrew Lam Ping-cheung and two others are accused of launching a campaign to press the Independent Commission Against Corruption into releasing Ms Wong in July 2004 - argued that under the normal circumstances a suspect would be considered for immunity before being considered for the witness protection scheme.

But Mr Ryan - who in last week's testimony agreed with the defence on the sequence of events - said after seeing case files: 'It does not follow that one has to be, or one cannot be, included on the witness protection programme until after immunity has been granted.'

Egan, 58, Lam, 53, Semtech chairman Derek Wong Chong-kwong, 37, and his lover Mandy Chui Man-si, 25, have pleaded not guilty to a joint charge of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The two lawyers have also denied charges in relation to disclosing Ms Wong's identity to the press.

Egan also denies alternate charges of disclosing the information to a reporter. Chui also denies a charge of perjury.

The case continues today.