• Mon
  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 10:28pm
NewsHong Kong

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


  • Yes: 22%
  • No: 78%
17 May 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 748

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.


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

i'm sure that stupid lady mast be a CHINESE or INDIAN ... only Chinese/Indian would ever come with these "STINGY" thing .... no doubt .... that's why i would rather choose foreigner customer over chinese and indian
I think all comments are very interesting, but does anyone think the main problem is just that the fair should always finish in a even number? I mean I lived in HK and now live in China I have never a .50 mao in China, so why don't they just adjust the fair to even numbers and problem solve! Sometimes Hong Kong is efficient, sometimes however I still just don't get those trivial problems that could be fixed, Their was the same news about the 50 cents when I was living in HK 3 years ago. Someone just fix it thanks
John Adams
I bet that the small -minded women is the tai-tai of some tycoon ( and probably one of the tycoons whose cars are always parked illegally at lunchtimes around famous restaurants because the tycoons are so tight-fisted they cannot even afford the loose change for their chauffeur to use a nearby public car park )
And please don't tell me that the police have their hands tied by "the law" ! On numerous occasions I have pointed out tyocoon -mobiles parked on double-yellow lines to police officers and they just ignore the complaint . In fact - the police EVERY NIGHT "unofficially permit" illegal parking on double yellow lines between 22,00 PM and 08.00 AM
How ridiculous can we get in HK ?
Agree. I wanted to test to see what police would do so I went three times to report several cars parking on sidewalks on 3 different Saturdays. First time they said they will get someone who deals with illegal parking to check (showed zero interest). Second time they informed me I could just call 999. 3rd time I took pictures of the illegal parking. They had no interest and said they would tell someone to check. 3 weeks in a row and still cars parked illegally. 4th time will be tomorrow. I am just curious how many complaints it takes until they do something.
Thus the fact that this lady was able to get police to prosecute someone for keeping $5 is very shocking. It must be because she works for ICAC. I can't get the police to do anything and those working at the complaints desk are pretty much asleep at the job.
3rd time I even tried the guilo trick of talking load and explaining that the sidewalk is in front of a school and kids have to walk on the street to get by. Even said that I wanted them removed. No bite they just sad illegal parking and someone will ticket them.
i urge that woman to visit restaurants in ifc and take them to court for rounding up the bill
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.
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.
only in HK - we get such HK-**** mentality. Pity any BF of hers.
Bill Gates would not pick up a US$500 bill in the street because this "petty" cash is not worth 5 seconds of his time.
What does this tell you about Legco politicians? Bickering endlessly about trivia suggests they are worthless individuals.
Aren't populist elections that pick these legislators the most wonderful thing in Democracy?
You can apply this conclusion to yours truly taking more than a minute to compose this silly note.
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!



SCMP.com Account