Judge spares lawyer contempt charge

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2012, 12:00am


An angry defendant, who is also a lawyer, was spared a contempt-of-court citation for abruptly marching out of court while a High Court judge was ruling on her case yesterday.

Startled members of the court and reporters watched as lawyer Stella Tong Choy-ting, 50, stood up, slung her handbag over her shoulder and stalked out of the courtroom while Madam Justice Esther Toh Lye-ping was speaking.

To put the incident on the court record, the judge said calmly: 'At this stage she left court, but I have decided not to bring her back for contempt. She did it because she was very agitated. I can understand her emotion.'

At the time, Toh had been explaining why she was denying Tong's appeal against an assault conviction for biting a lawyer's hand on March 11, 2009. Tong had been fined HK$4,000 and ordered to pay HK$1,000 in compensation to lawyer Jeffrey Haydn Lane.

Tong had asked for yesterday's hearing to be postponed, but Toh refused, noting the case had already been adjourned nine times since April last year.

Tong, whose legal expertise is not criminal law, was represented by a senior counsel yesterday.

Tong's assault conviction related to a dispute about her leaving a job at a company named Asia Link Profits Limited.

The firm hired solicitors to deal with her departure, including the handling of a laptop computer that Tong said belonged to her but might contain some company information.

Tong's computer was taken to the accounting firm Ferrier Hodgson for electronic data to be retrieved.

Tong became alarmed when she heard what was going to happen to her computer and called the police as she rode in a taxi heading to Ferrier Hodgson.

She also called somebody at the company, warning them not to touch her computer unless she was present.

The prosecution's case was that Tong encountered Lane in the Hong Kong Club Building, where the accountant's offices were located, while Lane was carrying her computer inside a briefcase.

She bit him on the hand, either in a lift or in the 14th floor lobby of the building.

Tong did not dispute that she bit the lawyer, but argued she was entitled to use reasonable force to protect her property.

Toh said she accepted the lower court findings that Tong used 'excessive' force.

When Tong called police and warned the company against tampering with her computer, she showed there were other ways to protect her property, the judge ruled.