Pub owner sues police for losses, mental anguish

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 May, 2011, 12:00am


The former owner of a karaoke pub has filed a writ against the government claiming HK$34.7 million in damages for malicious prosecution and alleging that police officers demanded she appoint 'a watcher' at her venue as a middleman for accepting 'secret money'.

Martnok Tharandee is seeking damages from the Commissioner of Police and the Secretary for Justice. In the writ, filed in the Court of First Instance, she said she was twice prosecuted and acquitted in cases concerning her licensed premises. After the acquittals, police allegedly disrupted her business by making frequent licence checks, annoying her customers and discouraging others from visiting her pub.

'During a period of about one month, the anti-triad squad parked a police van outside the premises. Several police officers wandered outside the premises. They tried to discourage the customers from entering,' the writ said. 'After [a watcher] was appointed, the police reduced the frequency of the licence checks dramatically. The anti-triad squad did not show up any more.'

Tharandee claimed the damages for losses to her business and mental anguish. She also said the alleged malicious prosecution forced her to close the business in 2008.

Spokeswomen for the Department of Justice and the police declined to comment.

Tharandee was prosecuted and stood trial in 2007 - in one case for failing to personally supervise the licensed premises and in another because the bar generated unacceptable noise. She accused prosecutors in both cases of trying to secure a conviction against her rather than aiming to uphold justice.

In the first case, a date used by police as the basis for alleging that Tharandee had failed to supervise the premises was a Wednesday, despite documents held by the Liquor Licensing Board confirming that Wednesdays were her regular days off, the writ said.

Tharandee was absent for seven of 34 license checks between August and November 2006, the writ said. But the pub's former licensee, Joe Chan Kin-wai, was found to be absent for 17 of 26 licence checks and was never prosecuted.

Regarding the prosecution over noise levels, Tharandee said the Environmental Protection Department had conducted checks on the pub and did not find an unacceptable level of sound. Chan received several noise complaints when he was the licensee but was not prosecuted, according to the writ.

Tharandee also alleged that two police constables framed one of her customers, a Thai national who was in Hong Kong on a visitor's visa, by alleging that he was working as a waiter at the pub in September 2006. Somchai Aengyong was convicted at Sha Tin Court of breaching his condition of stay, but the conviction was quashed on appeal.