Police informant incorrectly jailed for 33 months walks free
Man acquitted thanks to the efforts of a determined University of Hong Kong lawyer and a vital piece of evidence
“A” was a police informant and, more importantly, a free man before he was framed by the very person he was instructed to spy on by authorities.
After serving 33 months behind bars for a crime he did not commit, A has finally been released thanks to the solicitor advocates’ scheme and the efforts of University of Hong Kong legal scholar Eric Cheung Tat-ming.
A, whose identity could not be revealed for safety reasons, was arrested in 2012 for conspiring with Lam Hing to rob four people on various occasions in 2011.
He was supposed to be spying on Lam for the police.
But after Lam was arrested and pleaded guilty, the burglar then turned around and counter-accused A of being his accomplice.
A was found guilty and received an eight-and-a-half-year jail term for his involvement in the crimes. Lam received five years.
Cheung, a principal lecturer at HKU who obtained the higher rights of audience in 2013, said the inmate came to the university’s free legal advice scheme after failing to secure funds to appeal his case from the Legal Aid Department where he was turned down for a lack of merit.
“But there is a huge non-disclosure problem,” Cheung said, recalling the moment he took the case.
After changing the department’s mind, Cheung decided to represent the innocent man in the Court of Appeal last year.
The normal practice for most lawyers would be to let A to serve out his sentence. Not for Cheung. He was committed to freeing the innocent man as soon as possible.
“I helped him apply for bail pending appeal immediately – as soon as I received instructions,” Cheung recalled.
In the end, it was a key piece of evidence that Cheung found, which police had not made available to A in his initial trial back in 2012 that convinced the court to overturn the conviction.
It was a phone record, which contradicted Lam’s claims, and proved that A had never contacted the burglar to advise him who to target in each of the four crimes.
In another landmark case at the Court of Final Appeal last year, Cheung was able to free another man who had been incorrectly jailed for six weeks for tampering with a vehicle door.
Cheung said being able to appear at higher courts had proven useful in his efforts.
“It is especially so, as I often carry out work for the free advice scheme on a pro-bono basis.”