Citizens' Radio wants case rejected over wiped tapes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 September, 2009, 12:00am

Citizens' Radio and five activists have applied for the case against them to be dismissed - because videotapes showing a raid on their premises had been erased.

The six defendants, accused of making unlicensed broadcasts, yesterday applied for a permanent stay of proceedings, arguing that the loss of the footage would prevent a fair trial.

The footage was shot on August 29, 2006, in a unit of an industrial building in Chai Wan when the telecoms watchdog Ofta and police officers searched the site.

The total length of the footage, recorded on three videotapes, was about 21/2 hours, according to Ofta assistant inspector Lam Chiu-wah, who filmed it. Seven pieces of equipment and three sets of radio transmitters were seized in the operation.

The video was then passed to Lam Chi-shing, an assistant controller at Ofta, who was in charge of planning the raid. He watched the footage on the day after the operation, then stored it in a locked container and erased it one year later, Eastern Court heard.

'I have never treated these videos as evidence,' Lam Chi-shing said in his testimony. He said it was his department's normal practice to reuse videotapes because it stocked only about 10 of them.

He said the filming was not for prosecution purposes. It was taken as a record in case of any conflict at the scene or complaints against his colleagues, as the team was conducting its first operation involving an illegal broadcast. He rejected the defence's claim that the videos were important evidence for the prosecution.

Magistrate Douglas Yau Tak-hong asked: 'If they were unimportant, why would you lock them up?'

'The tapes contained some sensitive information recorded at the scene. There was no reason for me to place them casually,' Lam Chi-shing replied.

He admitted that he was aware that Citizens' Radio had been charged at the time he deleted the footage, but said his action was unrelated to this. He said he considered it an appropriate time to reuse the tapes because it was unlikely that a complaint about the operation would arise after one year.

Barrister Stanley Ma Ho-fai, for defendants Poon Tat-keung and Yang Kuang, asked why he decided to reuse the tapes instead of asking the office to buy new ones.

'For environmental protection, our supervisors told us in 2000 to stop using disposable batteries. We have been using rechargeable ones since then. Our department highly regards environmental protection,' the prosecution witness replied.

The court also heard that Lam Chiu-wah had disposed of a log book on which he had jotted notes about the operation.

The other defendants are Tsang Kin-shing, Chan Miu-tak, legislator Leung Kwok-hung and the Ocean Technology company, which runs Citizens' Radio.

The hearing continues today.