Howard Koo assault conviction overturned

Businessman’s nephew acquitted after court finds magistrate had erred in factual rulings

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 January, 2013, 3:23am

The nephew of businessman Daniel Koo Shing-cheong yesterday had his suspended prison sentence for attacking a neighbour overturned.

Howard Koo Wan-hung, 43, nephew of the Shui Hing (HK) chairman, was convicted in June last year for the attack, in the lift of a Mid-Levels housing block.

Koo was acquitted yesterday in the Court of First Instance after Deputy High Court Judge Woo Kwok-hing found that trial magistrate Ho Wai-yang had erred in factual rulings. Ho earlier said in Eastern Court that Koo had committed a serious crime in attacking his neighbour, Chiu Koon-yu, for "over 10 minutes". Koo had pleaded not guilty to a charge of common assault. He claimed that he had acted in self-defence, and to protect his parents.

Yesterday, the High Court judge said that Koo could be seen in CCTV footage of the incident sitting on Chiu's back as Chiu lay on the floor of the lift, his head down, with Koo pressing him to the floor using his left hand.

Woo said that Koo could be seen in the footage moving his right hand up and down several times, but rather than attacking Chiu - as magistrate Ho concluded - he believed Koo was trying to prevent his neighbour from escaping. Chiu had quarrelled with Koo's mother beforehand.

Woo also noted that when Chiu was treated in hospital, he only told the doctor of tenderness in his left shoulder and did not mention having a sore head.

Woo said it was surprising the magistrate had believed Chiu's testimony that he had forgotten to tell the doctor about his head injuries due to pain elsewhere.

The magistrate sentenced Koo to two weeks' jail but suspended the sentence for 18 months on humanitarian grounds in Eastern Court on June 8 last year. Koo's 67-year-old mother, who had earlier suffered a stroke, had a relapse in January and needed him to care for her, Koo's lawyer Robert Lee Shiu-keung SC, previously told the magistrate in mitigation.

A medical report earlier submitted to the magistrate showed Chiu was not seriously hurt and suffered no bruises or bleeding.

The encounter in the lift of Botanic Terrace in Conduit Road occurred on June 19, 2011 and began when Koo and his elderly parents quarrelled with Chiu.

Koo's parents used to live with him. The ceiling of their bedroom was damaged by water when Chiu began construction work in his flat in January 2010. They complained about the noise and leaking. After mediation, Chiu paid them HK$450,000 in December, the court earlier heard.