Pepper spray claim over Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre inmate who died

Prison officer tells trial of three colleagues accused of attacking prisoner, who later died, that they led him away doused in what looked like pepper spray

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 3:47am

Three Correctional Services Department staff accused of injuring an inmate were seen leading him with a pepper spray-like liquid "all over his face" the day before he died, a court heard yesterday.

Acting officer Koon Kin-yip had earlier seen two of the defendants holding the man down in a hospital consultation room, the District Court was told.

Koon was giving evidence against assistant officer Leung Shing-chi, 46, officer So Ka-wai, 34, and principal officer Tang Yuk-po, 48, who have pleaded not guilty to one count of inflicting grievous bodily harm on Taiwanese inmate Chen Chu-nan.

Chen, 33, was arrested for obtaining property by deception after arriving by boat in Hong Kong on August 12, 2009.

He was found unconscious in a protective cell at the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre on August 16 and declared dead at Princess Margaret Hospital shortly afterwards. Multiple bruises were found on him.

Opening the prosecution case, Virginia Lau Siu-yee told the court that on August 15, the three defendants took Chen to the hospital in the reception centre for a medical check-up but a doctor found nothing abnormal.

But he was seen "behaving oddly and murmuring to himself" and was taken back to the hospital.

During the wait, he suddenly stood up and said he wanted to "go home", but was later reseated by staff. At one point, Koon saw Leung and So holding Chen down in a consultation room with the three defendants telling him not to move.

Eventually, Chen was taken out and transferred to the protective cell, where he was found unconscious the next day.

A subsequent autopsy found multiple injuries on his body "suggestive of a violent assault", Lau said.

Koon said that after seeing the defendants in the consultation room, he saw them walking with Chen. Leung and So were on either side and Tang behind.

"There was what seemed to be pepper spray on the face of the deceased," he said, while being questioned by Lau. "A yellowish liquid, all over his face."

But he said he had not seen anyone use pepper spray on Chen.

Cross-examined by defence lawyer Oliver Davies, he said the liquid appeared to be on "almost the whole face", but also said he "might be mistaken".

A former paramedic who was called to the centre after staff found Chen unconscious said he had noticed "light bruising".

Ip Chi-kong, then an ambulanceman, now retired, said he saw marks on Chen's limbs, arms and chest.

According to the autopsy, Chen sustained three rib fractures and bruising to his head, neck, shoulders, chest, buttocks, hips and limbs, Lau earlier told the court.

A forensic pathologist said it was unlikely the injuries had been accidental, Lau told the court.

Instead, they were "suggestive of a violent assault", she said, quoting the pathologist's findings.

The trial continues before Deputy District Judge Ernest Lin Kam-hung.