Victory in leaky flat appeal

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 March, 2012, 12:00am


A long-running dispute over a water leak took a new turn yesterday when a former director of the Buildings Department won his appeal against a conviction and fine for failing to stop seepage from his flat into the flat below.

Choi Yu-leuk, 71, was also granted legal costs by the Court of First Instance, which ruled prosecutors did not have enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Choi did not carry out repair works before the deadline he had been given. Choi had been fined HK$1,750.

Mr Justice Alan Wright said there was a 'realistic possibility' that the water - which continued to seep, after the deadline, from Choi's flat into the kitchen of the flat below - was residue from water used in government tests.

Choi, who was not in court, said in a statement later he was pleased with the outcome of the appeal which, he said, 'vindicated his innocence'.

He criticised the government. 'It calls into question the current practice and methodology adopted by the [government] in water seepage investigation,' he said. 'It is high time for the government to review its investigation methodology in accordance with engineering and scientific principles.'

That view was shared by the judge, who said the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department's practices for investigating water leaks might benefit from a review. A government expert had told the court that in cases when seepage continued past a repair deadline, no confirmation test was carried out to see where the water was coming from.

Choi was convicted in Kowloon City Court last April after a long-running dispute with a downstairs neighbour, who filed a complaint about seepage in January.

The magistrate's court found Choi had not complied with a nuisance notice issued by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department on March 4, 2010. Choi was given 21 days to repair the floor and walls of a shower room at his flat in Prince Edward Road West.

Choi's lawyers argued in the appeal hearing that there was a possibility the seepage was from renovation works being done in the flat above Choi's.

Choi had repaired a broken drain pipe.

The department conducted tests using coloured water to track the seepage and concluded the leak was in Choi's flat.

But the judge said he did not share that opinion in the absence of follow-up tests to find the origin of the leak.

'[Choi] plainly cannot be held liable for water which had already saturated the concrete as a result of defective waterproofing prior to 26 March 2010 [the deadline for repairs], yet the water had not passed right through the concrete and dripped into [the flat below] until after that date,' Wright wrote.

'I cannot see how I am able to be satisfied that it establishes the prosecution case beyond reasonable doubt.'