Magistrate rapped for refusing bail request without giving reason
Eastern Court's Symon Wong, who gave no reason for refusing man's request for time to get a lawyer, 'brought disgrace to judiciary'
A High Court judge has rapped a magistrate for "bringing disgrace to the judiciary" over his decision to refuse bail to a defendant in a drug case who had requested time to get a lawyer.
Deputy judge Mr Justice Michael Stuart-Moore said he was "utterly shocked" that Magistrate Symon Wong Yu-wing, of Eastern Court, did not give any reason on Monday for remanding Leung Ka-kit in custody.
Leung, 34, had earlier been granted bail twice, by the police and the courts. But Wong's decision landed the defendant in jail for four nights, until he had the opportunity to present his application for bail afresh at the High Court yesterday, in a hearing brought forward by Stuart-Moore to remedy the situation.
"There is not one single valid reason either by the magistrate or by the fact, for the withdrawal of the bail," the judge said.
He called it an abuse of power "to lock up an unrepresented defendant who was highly powerless to do anything".
The judicial system was built on the principle of equal treatment and all parties who were brought before the court should be treated fairly, Stuart-Moore said.
Not only was Leung not legally represented, but the prosecution had not challenged his request for bail, he said.
Stuart-Moore apologised to Leung on behalf of the judiciary and said he hoped it would not happen again. He also allowed the defendant to be released on bail of HK$500.
The judge further noted that the bail document Wong signed listed 15 reasons from which the magistrate could select to explain why the defendant was required to be taken into custody.
But Wong did not choose any of those reasons, writing only "remand in custody" and signing the form, he said.
The magistrate, by abusing his judicial power to control someone who was entitled to his liberty, "has brought disgrace to the judiciary", Stuart-Moore said.
The court heard that the suspect was arrested in Central on April 30 and later released on police bail.
On June 10, Leung attended Eastern Court and denied the twin charges of possessing 0.5 grams of the dangerous drug Ice and of possessing apparatus for inhaling drugs. Magistrate Bina Chainrai set July 14 as the trial date and granted the defendant bail of HK$500.
Leung, who had no legal representative, returned to Eastern Court for his trial on Monday. He asked Wong for an adjournment so he could have more time to seek a lawyer.
The prosecution indicated that it had no objection to extending Leung's bail, but Wong revoked it.
Leung applied for bail again at the High Court two days later. Prosecutor Annie Li read the document and found the situation unusual, so she alerted the court.
Leung's bail application was to be heard next Monday, but Stuart-Moore found it an urgent matter and fixed a hearing for yesterday afternoon.
The judge expressed appreciation for the Department of Justice's assistance. He said such a case should be marked "urgent" so that the courts could deal with it as soon as possible.