• Wed
  • Sep 24, 2014
  • Updated: 5:34am
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.


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This article is now closed to comments

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.
You know what they call these type of "well educated" master degree holdres? - Educated Idiots! She has no EQ nor IQ. When her name is out there, someone should comb thru all her tax submissions, expense claims and see if she is as self righteous as she claims. And the cab driver should consider filing a claim on his wasted time!
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
How can you have to pay a HKD 136.50 fare and not have the decency to round it up even just to HKD 140? I mean, even if you don't believe or are used to tipping, just for convenience sake, I would. And instead, she goes after the 50 cents?!

It is sad and incredible. You'd hope she'd have better things to do with her life. What a sad and empty existence she must lead that she wastes so much time and effort going after 50 cents. This is probably the kind of person who goes back down the isles with a supermarket receipt to see if the prices match.

I'd like to get her name out too, not just that of the poor cabbie. At least she should bear the reputational damage for this insanity. And then I'd like to call on a different government department than the police and judiciary to now give this woman their full attention: a full IRD tax audit for her returns over the past 7 years seems appropriate. Let her dig up every charity donation receipt, document every deduction she ever claimed, and let's comb her bank accounts for any 50 cents of potentially undeclared income she may have had.
Ridiculous. The police inspector in charge of this case should have applied common sense before charging the taxi driver with an alleged theft of 50 cents. The police are permitted to exercise discretion in minor or trivial cases without the need for seeking legal advice before making up their minds as to whether an alleged offender should or should not be charged; and this is one such case in which discretion should have been applied.
The police inspector in charge is not the only one who failed to exercise common sense. His/her chief inspector, superintendent and even his/her chief superintendent -- all of whom meet every morning to review and discuss the preceding day's cases -- should have spotted and rectified this error of judgement.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
i urge that woman to visit restaurants in ifc and take them to court for rounding up the bill
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.
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.
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.
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.
The admission by a spokesperson from the Department of Justice that no legal professional had looked at the facts of the case until after Mr Tam had been arrested and brought to court is a reminder that that the decision to maintain criminal proceedings is, in fact, the responsibility of the Department of Justice under Article 63 Basic Law. Mr Tam's unpleasant experience would seem down to the fact that the existing system appears to not to require a lawyer to scrutinise a decision to charge at an early stage, no matter that the case appears simple and straightforward to a policeman.


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