Ketamine dealer jailed for 15 years

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 July, 2007, 12:00am

Judge says drug is more harmful than first thought and it is time to crack down

A drug dealer who confessed to trafficking in more than 10kg of ketamine was jailed yesterday for 15 years because the judge said the drug's known harmful effects required a harsh sentence.

Mr Justice Alan Wright in the Court of First Instance imposed the prison sentence on Yung Ka-kin, who had pleaded guilty to three counts of trafficking in a dangerous drug, including one of dealing in cannabis.

Yesterday was Yung's 27th birthday.

He was arrested on November 24 while carrying about 3kg of a powder containing 2.56kg of ketamine compressed and wrapped in foil packages bearing the name of a popular type of ginseng tea. He immediately admitted to police that he was planning to sell the drugs.

A further 11.56kg of powder containing 9.98kg of ketamine was found when police searched the flat he had been seen leaving.

Inside they also found equipment for weighing, compressing and vacuum-sealing the drug in the tea packaging, and a set of keys for another flat where Yung admitted he stored cannabis. A search of the second flat found 10 packages containing a total of 2.46kg of cannabis buds.

Yung told police in a later interview that he had bought all of the drugs at a club on the mainland called 838, and then carried them back across the border into Hong Kong. He revealed that he would sell the drugs by depositing them behind the cistern in a public toilet cubicle in Fanling. He would return half an hour after the drop and collect money from the same place.

In handing down the sentence, Mr Justice Wright said he no longer believed the practice of equating ketamine with Ecstasy when sentencing drug dealers was appropriate. He cited a growing body of scientific and sociological evidence that suggested ketamine's impact on individuals and society at large was far more problematic than had been first thought.

'The potential harm ... is real and significant,' Mr Justice Wright said.

Yung's trial is the latest in a string of ketamine cases to attract stiff penalties. Last month, two men in their 50s were each sentenced to 30 years prison for being caught with Hong Kong's largest haul of the drug, 500kg, while earlier this year another man received 22 years for being found with 200kg.

A number of court inquiries into the adequacy of the sentencing regime for ketamine have been conducted by Court of First Instance judges, without conclusive findings. The Court of Appeal later this year will conduct a similar exercise which may yield more definite guidance, the judge said.

Mr Justice Wright said ketamine caused short-term incapacity in those who took it and had a long-term physiological impact in addition to fostering psychological dependence.

Ketamine's rapid rise in popularity was illustrated by police seizures, which had risen from 89kg in 2002 to almost 300kg in 2005, and then to 1,006kg last year.

Mr Justice Wright said that, had he been using the old sentencing approach, Yung could have expected a total sentence of 18 to 19 years before reduction for a guilty plea.

However, he believed that ketamine offences should fall somewhere above those concerning Ecstasy, but below those involving heroin, Ice or cocaine, which for a similar quantity would attract about 30 years behind bars.

Recent sentences

June 26, 2007 Two men, 54 and 53, are jailed for 30 years over 500kg of ketamine

May 8 Pregnant 17-year-old is jailed for six month for selling ketamine

March 2 Man, 23, is jailed for six months for selling ketamine

January 9 Man, 47, is jailed for 20 years for possessing more than 160kg of ketamine

January 2 Man, 32, is jailed for 11 years for selling drugs, including marijuana and ketamine

November 30, 2006 Man, 39, gets 30 years' jail for possessing 150kg of ketamine

October 27 Man, 48, is sentenced to eight months for selling about 5kg of ketamine

June 29 Man, 39, is jailed for 12 years for trafficking ketamine