Contempt of court? Prosecution slammed for disregarding orders in HKU council siege trial
Acting magistrate Joseph To Ho-shing ‘surprised’ by application to merge Billy Fung and Colman Li’s cases as he had expected both to be ready for trial
A magistrate on Wednesday lamented that the city’s prosecutors had ignored his orders when preparing the cases of two University of Hong Kong student leaders accused of obstructing a fireman and threatening HKU governing council chairman Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, adding that this could amount to contempt of court.
The prosecutors on Wednesday applied to Eastern Court to have both cases, involving former HKU student union leader Billy Fung Jing-en and his then external vice-president Colman Li Fung-kei, to be heard before the same magistrate, citing common witnesses and relevant footage evidence.
Acting magistrate Joseph To Ho-shing noted that according to the last hearing, both cases should have reached a state which was ready for trial by Wednesday. Certain court documents were also supposed to have been handed in by both the prosecutors and the defence.
“I am surprised now to be supplied with this application,” he told assistant director of public prosecutions Ned Lai Ka-yee, who represented the Department of Justice, referring to the prosecutors’ request to merge the cases.
Originally, the present hearing was to decide the trial day. But To on Wednesday adjourned the case to October 20 for another pretrial session before the trial commences on December 15. He granted the prosecutors’ request.
Fung, 22, is accused of intimidating Arthur Li outside the main entrance of the Hong Kong Jockey Club Building for Interdisciplinary Research in Pok Fu Lam on January 26 this year.
Colman Li, 21, allegedly obstructed a fireman at the campus on the same night when a council meeting was held.
While Fung faces one count of criminal intimidation and its alternative charge of disorderly conduct in a public place, plus another count of criminal damage and one of attempted forcible entry, Li has been served with a summons for obstructing public officers in execution of their duty.
Both have denied all charges.
While the alleged incident took place in January, Fung and Li were not brought to court until July and last month respectively.
The magistrate added: “The prosecutors have the time to prepare for the case from the day of the incident, not the day of prosecution.”
To also said the defence had a part to play in wilfully disobeying the court’s order and asked both sides what the consequence would be.
He said it would be better etiquette if a letter could be written to the court prior to the hearing, informing it about the prosecutors’ new request.
Before he ended the hearing, To told the prosecutors: “If my memory serves me right, it could be contempt.”
For the first time, the court also heard the duo would be represented by Senior Counsel Martin Lee.
Fung and Li were supported by a score of students, including Fung’s successor, Althea Suen Hiu-nam.