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  • Apr 16, 2014
  • Updated: 10:51pm
NewsHong Kong
CRIME

After six-month ordeal, taxi driver cleared of keeping 50-cent change

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 May, 2013, 10:06am
 

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17 May 2013
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Total number of votes recorded: 747

Hong Kong prides itself on its rule of law, but the law can sometimes be a harsh mistress.

Just ask taxi driver Tam Hoi-chi. Many months ago, he was accused of overcharging a passenger by 50 cents. He walked out of Eastern Court yesterday with a clear name. The prosecution offered no evidence, leaving Tam wondering why the charge had been laid in the first place.

Tam's six-month brush with the law began after he picked up a woman passenger outside the ICAC headquarters in North Point on October 26 last year and took her to Po Kong Village Road in Diamond Hill. The meter showed the fare as HK$136.50. The passenger gave the driver HK$200 and he handed her HK$63 in change, keeping the 50 cents. Rounding to the nearest dollar is a common practice.

The passenger did not ask for the 50 cents at the time but later complained to the police.

Prosecutors told the court that the decision to offer no evidence was made after reviewing the case and witness statements.

Outside court, Tam said the case had exhausted him. He said he hoped prosecution over such a trivial matter would not be "the demise of Hong Kong".

Law Society vice-president Stephen Hung Wan-shun said it was difficult to define how much was a reasonable amount to justify bringing a case to court. "If a driver pays HK$2.50 too little in change, would this amount be considered trivial?" he asked. However, he added, if he were the police officer in charge of the case, he would encourage the parties to settle outside court.

Hung said the decision to withdraw would not be seen to be encouraging the practice of taxi drivers pocketing change.

The Department of Justice said it was not consulted before the charge was laid. "The case was reviewed by the Prosecutions Division. Given the trivial nature [...] it was considered not appropriate to proceed with it."

Police said they decided not to proceed after taking legal advice.

Lai Ming-hung, chairman of the Taxi and Public Light Bus Concern Group, said the case would make cabbies more careful and he called on them to install Octopus readers. Some taxis accept Octopus and credit cards but many drivers are reluctant because they don't want to give up the chance of a tip.

Last year, 29 of 645 complaints about taxi overcharging were taken to court.

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This article is now closed to comments

hkpoia
What is a guilo talking load? It was 50 cents and not $5. Too many busy body with nothing better to be doing in this town!
HK-Explorer
I have noticed often taxis undercharging as much as overcharging. Customers want to get off fast and taxi drivers want to jump to the next customer. Dealing with coins just slows down a very efficient taxi process.
Remember hk 50 cents is just 7 cents US! I would never expect a US taxi driver to give back 7 cents. They would round up or down. Even if a taxi rounded up 15 times in 1 day he still could not buy a chocolate bar.
Hopefully the taxi driver knows most of HK think he was in the right. At least the judge showed him he was right. At least he can hold his head high!
SpeakFreely
Should she be charged for stealing her office hour time in dealing with the case? ( If she believe in the law so squarely) I'm sure she talked to many departments and agencies during office hours. I hope her boss knows.
SpeakFreely
Heard from radio the taxi driver said This women is "educated" with a master degree. It is sad to see people lost their respect and trust to others after all these eduction. I'm sure a high school drop out wont do something stupid as this. She took the receipts so I assume she can claim the expense. Don't tell me she only spent time on this case after work! Im prety sure she probably worked on this at office hours. and i m pretty sure her job is a easy job that she has a lot of free time to talk to so many depsrtments and do all this investigation obviousley during office hours. i hope she is not working with ICAC wasting sll this time. i hope her boss look into her work. Who has moral issue!
tomonday
i urge that woman to visit restaurants in ifc and take them to court for rounding up the bill
SpeakFreely
I totally agreed with Alex Lo that HK is down to the drain. If our professional has no common sense including the lawyer above, we are finished. Period. As I commented in Alex Comments, this issue also shown how we broken down as a society that people has no trust, respect and care on others. In the first place, the women from ICAC, the consumer counsel, the transport department,and the police who pressed charges just simply look at the law by the book ovbiously believing the taxi driver was cheating for 50 cents. And they I presumed are educated and resourceful people. And all made a collective action against a low paid old taxi driver for 50 cents. As Alex said, shame on HK! It is time to look how to downsize our government department. It is time we look at how we handle complaints. How we prioritize complaints.
jmci
The guilty party here is the ridiculous woman that went to the police in the first place. What kind of twisted mind considers a shortchange of 50 cents to be a criminal matter? This irresponsible woman should have been named in the article and she should be hauled into court for abusing the public justice system. Remember, it is public money that paid for this travesty. Ironic that she was picked up outside the ICAC office.
impala
I agree. The taxi driver's name is all over the place now, and even though he has been cleared, this is hardly positive publicity. The "woman" is the one who should be named and shamed. I'll keep an eye out on the judgement of the Eastern Magistrate Court. It should be uploaded by early next week with details of the case.
seikocreamy
Yes, prosecuting somebody over 50 cents is idiotic. But it seems everyone is quick to blame the Police without pause to wonder what kind of person makes a complaint to the Police over 50 cents in the first place. With so many "Checks and balances" these days and an Independent Police Complaints Council eager to place blame, I wonder how much discretion the Police actually had in this sordid incident.
HK-Explorer
Hong Kong has the most police officers per capita in the world. It makes them look absolutely idiotic that they aggressively go after a taxi driver who had a pasenger who did not check her change before leaving (who doesn't check).
Why don't the police officer go after the easy convictions and start towing illegally parked cars? For some reason they ignore rich car owners and attack poor taxi drivers.

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