Policeman challenges sacking over 999 call

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2007, 12:00am

A policeman accused of making false 999 calls lost his job because his advocate did a miserable job, the Court of First Instance heard yesterday.

Lam Chi-pan, 33, has applied for a judicial review of the November 2004 decision that led to his forced retirement from the police force. Mr Lam said the force acted unfairly when it found him guilty of conduct calculated to bring the force into disrepute.

Mr Lam was a constable at the Waterfront police station in Central when he was arrested in September 2003. Fellow officers said they saw him make a call from a public telephone near the Star Ferry at about the same time a false call was made to 999 that there was a fire at the Israeli consulate.

He denied the charge of wasteful employment of police, and in February 2004 was told he would not be charged. But in October, he learned that he would face six charges relating to his statements, the fire call and another fake 999 call.

He was found guilty of only the original charge at a hearing the following month and forced to retire with benefits. That was later changed to an order to resign without pay in lieu of notice.

Philip Dykes SC yesterday argued that the Court of First Instance should proceed with the application for judicial review because Mr Lam had been denied procedural fairness because his advocate, a fellow police officer, had presented his case in an incompetent manner.

It had been Mr Lam's case all along that he was not in the vicinity of the Star Ferry pier when the alleged phone call was made. However, his advocate had done nothing to challenge the evidence that led to Mr Lam's identification.

'It is a strange state of affairs to not challenge the identification evidence and then to call [Mr Lam] to give evidence that he wasn't there,' Mr Dykes said.

Mr Dykes said incompetence by itself might not be enough to set aside an administrative decision, but 'rank incompetence' - whereby the instructions of the defendant are simply not carried out - should be enough for the court to decide something has gone wrong.

The government has argued that it is only in extremely serious situations, such as where someone faces jail, or being returned to a jurisdiction where they may face torture, that the court should exercise its discretion to review possible incompetence on behalf of people's advocates.

Madam Justice Carlye Chu Fun-ling reserved her decision to a later date.