Pier activist angers judge, but escapes jail sentence

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 June, 2007, 12:00am

Star Ferry pier activist Ho Loy was spared a jail sentence yesterday for criminal damage - but not before she drew a magistrate's ire for trying to put conditions on her penalty.

The Lantau resident was given 120 hours' community service for slashing a canvas cover at the pier demolition site in December. The penalty was along the lines recommended by probation and community service reports submitted to the court.

But Eastern Court Magistrate Adriana Tse was angered when she learned from one report that Ho, 41, had told a probation officer she would accept community service only if she was able to choose her work and was given a travelling allowance by the government.

'I have never seen anything like this before ... She is being punished for the law she violated,' Ms Tse shouted.

Defence barrister Samantha Chiu asked Ms Tse to consider a lighter penalty for Hoy, a single mother of an eight-year-old daughter who lives on social welfare and wages as a part-time dance teacher.

But Ms Tse said Ho had shown she had an utter lack of respect for the law by committing her crime in plain view of police officers. She questioned whether Ho preferred to be sent to jail instead of serve community service, and asked the barrister to take further instructions.

After a short adjournment, Ms Chiu said her client agreed to do community service 'unconditionally'. Ms Tse then said she would 'give her a second chance' and spared Ho from jail despite the serious nature of the offence.

Ho had denied the charge, saying she had a reasonable excuse because she believed she was protecting a historic landmark that belonged to her and the city during a rally to save the pier.

Outside court, Ho said she respected the ruling, but insisted on refusing duties that 'conflict with environmental conservation'.

'If I have to choose between my conscience, principles and the law again, I will choose the same, my conscience and principles,' she said.