Magistrate mulls change to charge on league activist Avery Ng

Avery Ng may face milder charge of committing a nuisance, instead of causing a public nuisance

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 April, 2013, 3:05am

A magistrate has made a rare suggestion to amend a charge in court instead of dismissing it, at the trial of a pro-democracy activist who tried to catch the attention of visiting President Hu Jintao in June.

Magistrate Raymond Wong Kwok-fai informed the counsels of the proposal at the hearing of activist Avery Ng Man-yuen in Tsuen Wan Court yesterday, when he was due to give a verdict.

The Department of Justice welcomed the idea, but Ng's lawyer objected. "By initiating the amendment, the court could create public worries about whether it is going beyond [its] role and doing the prosecution work," barrister Arthur Yip Chi-ho warned. "There might also be misconceptions about the court being unfair to the defendant."

Ng, vice-chairman of the League of Social Democrats, was charged with causing a public nuisance after he threw his T-shirt off a Tung Chung bridge on June 29, during Hu's trip to mark the 15th anniversary of the handover. No member of the public was affected because officers had closed at least 700 metres of the eastbound lanes on North Lantau Highway to let the convoy pass, the court had heard.

Wong said he might invoke his powers to change Ng's charge to a similar offence of committing a nuisance, which may cause injury or obstruction, to traffic or a public place. A magistrate is empowered to amend or dismiss a charge, without causing injustice, if he finds it defective or varies from the evidence presented.

Senior counsel Audrey Eu Yuet-mee told the South China Morning Post it was "relatively rare" for a magistrate to amend a charge. The court will announce its decision on April 16.