Secretary for Development Paul Chan fined HK$1,800 for crashing into taxi near Happy Valley

Court finds he had "insufficient awareness of road safety" and orders him to take a driving course following incident that put both drivers in hospital with neck injuries

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2014, 4:52pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 March, 2014, 2:34am

Development Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po has been fined HK$1,800 for an act of careless driving that caused a crash near the Happy Valley racecourse last year.

The penalty was imposed yesterday by a magistrate who described Chan's record - including one previous case of careless driving and seven other charges - as "not too bad".

The minister, who has rarely been far from controversy since taking office in 2012, pleaded guilty but did not appear at the hearing in Eastern Court. He was also ordered to take a driving course within three months.

Chan, 58, was alone in a seven-seater vehicle on Wong Nai Chung Road shortly before midday on August 4 last year when he tried to cut into the right-hand lane on the Canal Road flyover and collided with a taxi.

Chan's lawyer said the minister could not see the taxi coming when he cut in. Both Chan and the taxi driver, 45, received neck injuries and were taken to Ruttonjee Hospital in Wan Chai. Chan was later transferred to Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam for observation. Both cars were slightly damaged.

Special Magistrate Ho Lai-ming said the cars must have been close before Chan changed lanes, because the damage was to the front of both vehicles.

"It appears that the defendant does not have sufficient awareness of road safety," Ho said. "A sudden change of lane could be a very dangerous act."

The court heard that as well as careless driving in 2006, Chan had three cases of speeding, one of crossing double white lines, one of not stopping at a traffic light and one of using a mobile phone when driving. Still, Ho said: "His past driving record … was not too bad. This is the main reason I am willing to be lenient."

Chan's bureau said he respected the ruling of the court.

The minister has been at the centre of a series of rows. His family has been linked to the ownership of subdivided flats and land in an area to be covered by a new town promoted by his bureau. He ranks as one of the city's least popular officials.