Judge needs to further explain grounds for Stephen Chan’s acquittal, appeal court rules

Judgment in bribery case involving Stephen Chan to be examined by Court of Appeal

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 August, 2014, 5:36pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 August, 2014, 4:00am

A judge who acquitted a former TVB general manager and his assistant of graft charges last year has been ordered by the Court of Appeal to explain his verdict.

District Court Judge Poon Siu-tung had acquitted former TVB host Stephen Chan Chi-wan and his then-assistant Edthancy Tseng Pei-kun of bribery in 2011 and stood by his decision when he was asked to reconsider it in March last year.

"The trial judge failed to show supporting evidence before reaching his findings in some points," said barrister Eric Kwok Tung-ming SC, representing the Department of Justice, which had lodged the appeal.

Kwok said Poon, who ruled that TVB knew and had "silently agreed" to Chan receiving payment for his outside work, had relied on "non-existent" evidence to arrive at his judgment.

And in considering whether Chan had "reasonable excuse" to accept payment for his outside work, Poon erred in taking into account that Chan had no dishonest intent and conflict of interest, the barrister said.

Kwok said the judge then "wrongly" concluded that Chan had only failed to report his outside work to TVB but had not deliberately hidden the information from his then employer.

"The judge's verdict was unreasonable," he said.

Although Poon had in May put up a submission explaining his verdict, the appeal court should still ask him to elaborate on his explanation, Kwok said.

The Department of Justice took the case to the appellate court after Poon acquitted Chan and his assistant for the second time in March last year.

The case goes back to 2009, when Chan was paid HK$112,000 to host a New Year's Eve TV special at a Kowloon mall, but did not tell his then employer TVB about the payment.

The matter led to bribery charges against him and his assistant. Both were acquitted by Poon in the District Court in 2011.

But the prosecution found the judge had failed to show sufficient grounds for their acquittal, and hence appealed his verdict.

The Court of Appeal then sent the case back to Poon for reconsideration. In March last year, he stood by his original verdict, ruling that Chan had had a "reasonable excuse" for not asking his boss before accepting payment for the show. The prosecution then appealed the case for the second time.