Police criticised over laser-gun reasoning

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 19 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 January, 2008, 12:00am

Explanation for tycoon's reduced ticket angers lawmaker and drivers' union

The police explanation for why a tycoon's charge for speeding was reduced had failed to clear doubt on the use of laser guns, a drivers' union and a lawmaker said yesterday.

In a statement released on Thursday referring to the case of Peter Lam Kin-ngok, chairman of Lai Sun Development, the police said an internal training manual had been used that differed in some respects from the manufacturer's manual. 'As a result, the prosecution felt it was unsafe to pursue the original offence.'

But James To Kun-sun, deputy chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, said the police statement was not convincing.

In November, the tycoon had signed a statement and submitted it to court stating his position that his driving speed was no more than 80km/h, the defence said. As a result, the 79km/h to which Mr Lam had admitted was not something that suddenly came out after the cross-examination of the constable, they said.

Mr Lam had his charge reduced last week after a constable admitting breaching guidelines when using the laser gun.

He originally clocked the tycoon driving his Ferrari at up to 114km/h in a 50km/h zone on the North Lantau Highway on April 5.

After the charge was amended, Mr Lam pleaded guilty to driving at 79km/h. Under the original charge, Mr Lam might have lost his licence, but under the final and reduced charge, he was fined HK$450.

'Every driver caught speeding at that spot on that night should appeal against their charge,' Mr To said. 'And in fact, every Hong Kong driver caught speeding by laser gun can do so. What if other officers also use a different manual?'

The police said the force had confidence in the 'undoubted accuracy and reliability' of the guns and would keep using them.

Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group chairman Lai Ming-hung also expressed concern. The group, which has thousands of members, urged professional drivers to come forward to appeal against speeding cases. 'We are very angry. It is so unfair. Why did the police reduce Mr Lam's charge but not others?

'We are not only asking people who face speeding prosecutions to come to us but also people who have already paid the penalty. As long as they have the speeding tickets in hand, they should come to us and we will act together.'

He said dozens of drivers had contacted him.

Despite the police comments, Mr Lai said many of his members suspected the force had suspended use of the laser guns. 'Police had used laser guns almost every day on both sides of the Western Harbour Tunnel. But over the past few days, none of us have seen any signs of this.'

A police spokesman insisted: 'We are still using it. It is very reliable.'

The police have set up a hotline, 2860 6349, for people who have received fixed-penalty tickets for speeding and who feel aggrieved. They did not say how many calls they had received.