Appeal against photographer's acquittal rejected

Acquittal of a photographer on assault charge is upheld and journalists association says the ruling has done justice to people in profession

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 September, 2013, 4:38pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 September, 2013, 4:09am

The High Court has rejected the "pedantic" criticisms made by prosecutors against the acquittal of a former Apple Daily photographer who was charged with assaulting a security guard at the government's headquarters.

Madam Justice Maggie Poon Man-kay upheld the not-guilty verdict of Gary Sing Kai-chung, 41, passed by Magistrate Joseph To Ho-shing in Eastern Court in December.

Poon rejected the appeal of public prosecutors that To's verdict was one that no reasonable magistrate could have reached.

"The criticisms made by the appellant of the magistrate are pedantic and captious," she said in her written judgment in the Court of First Instance yesterday.

She also decided that To was right to order the prosecution to pay Sing's legal costs.

When asked whether it would appeal again, a spokesman for the Department of Justice said: "We are studying the judgment carefully to decide on the appropriate follow-up actions."

The incident arose on January 9 last year as Sing and other journalists approached then education minister Michael Suen Ming-yeung, who was returning to work after a spell in hospital with legionnaires' disease.

Sing bumped into security guard Yu Chau-pui, 64, who was trying to stop them taking photos of Suen. Yu, a retired policeman, fell and hurt his hand.

Sing later pleaded not guilty to assault. In acquitting Sing on December 7, To said he could not rule out that the photographer had acted in self-defence.

During the appeal, prosecutor Simon Tam Man-fai said the trial magistrate's verdict was flawed and the case should be sent back for a retrial. Tam said the magistrate had misunderstood Yu's testimony and had reached his conclusion by speculation, unsupported by evidence.

Poon ruled that the magistrate, in deciding he could not draw the inference that Sing had assaulted Yu intentionally, had based his conclusion on the available video footage.

The decision was not speculation or conjecture, she said. To's finding that Yu had exaggerated his evidence need not be revised, she said.

Sing said later yesterday he was relieved on hearing the verdict and added that he had refused the prosecution's offer to drop the case if he agreed to be bound over. "Why should I admit something I did not do?" he asked. If the prosecution filed an appeal it would be a waste of taxpayers' money and would look like a child throwing a tantrum, he said.

The Journalists Association and the Press Photographers Association said the ruling did justice to journalists. "This … shows the Department of Justice lacks sufficient grounds to run down Sing, making people suspect that this is done to scare the media," the associations said.