Academic Lee Ngok cleared in sex assault charges
Judge rules accusers of Lee Ngok unreliable in alleging sexual misconduct when the three of them were co-workers at a private college
A prominent academic accused of sexually assaulting two colleagues has been cleared as a judge decided the witnesses against him were unreliable.
Magistrate So Wai-tak said one accuser of Lee Ngok, 73, the former deputy president of a non-profit further education college, was not an "honest witness" because of suspicious timing in her allegations against him.
So said some of the evidence presented by the accuser known only as X, 39, also appeared to be contradictory. The other accuser, known as Y, 32, also waited too long to come forward, So decided, saying her memory of the events was vague.
So suggested the accusations stemmed from financial motives.
The two women accused Lee of the assaults last year. X said Lee had touched her inappropriately and tried to kiss her while they were reviewing papers in 2010, and had touched her inappropriately as far back as 2007. Y said Lee had sexually assaulted her in offices at City University, Kowloon Tong, between March and October 2010.
X said she had not come forward until last year because the college for which she worked had been going through an accreditation process at the time of the alleged assaults. But So pointed out that she had left the institution in 2011 and could have come forward then.
So said that judging from the way X gave evidence, she was in no way "weak" or "introverted".
He suggested that the owner of the institution had asked X not to go to the police when she had first told him about the assault. "Is your education business more important than the … dignity of [your] own staff?" So asked.
Y said she didn't immediately feel she could come forward because Lee, a prominent figure in the field, had written a letter of recommendation for her to another institution.
Lee is a former dean of arts at the University of Hong Kong and served as pro-vice-chancellor of the University of Southern Queensland in Australia.
But So said she had previously testified that Lee had slept at her house without incident.
So also pointed out that the accusations last year came a year after the college had fought a civil case against another institution. Lee, who had left the private college by that time, was accused of leaking information that made a potential buyer lose interest.
That's why So said the owner of the college was also an unreliable witness. He questioned the owner's motives in paying for legal advice in the case and in asking staff whether Lee had molested them, once Lee allegedly helped torpedo the deal.
Y did not come forward until the owner asked her about her experiences with Lee, So said.