Hong Kong court gives accused Mong Kok rioters five more weeks to consider pleas
The 11 defendants take extra time to weigh up their options after new guidelines reduced sentencing discounts for coming clean
Eleven defendants charged over the Mong Kok riot in February were on Saturday granted five more weeks to consider their pleas before the case is listed for trial at the District Court.
Their application for more time was made after the Court of Appeal in September published guidelines that revised sentencing discounts for admissions of guilt during the plea hearing and after the case has been listed for trial.
While those who plead guilty to their crimes at their plea hearing will continue to receive a one-third discount off their sentence, those who do so afterwards will now receive a lesser discount.
Legal Aid Department lawyer Daniel Tong, who represents all but two defendants in the riot case, asked for a four-week adjournment during a pretrial review on Saturday so that his clients have more time to considering their pleas.
He said the department will try to arrange counsels to advise the defendants during the five-week period.
Prosecutors did not object the application.
District judge Anthony Kwok Kai-ho approved an extra week after learning that one of the defendant’s legal aid application needed another three weeks to process.
Kwok reminded the defendants to carefully consider legal advice before reaching a decision as they may lose sentencing discounts if they change their minds after pleading not guilty.
“Please think this through carefully,” he said. “I’m not encouraging you to plead guilty, but if you intend to plead guilty, please do so in a timely manner.”
The eleven defendants consist of mostly of young adults, aged between 17 and 70. Three are unemployed.
They are waiter Mo Jia-tao, student Lee Sin-yi, cleaner Chung Chi-wah, actor Anthony Ho Kam-sum, waiter Fok Ting-ho, Chan Wo-cheung, logistics worker Tang King-chung, Li Cheuk-hin, electrician Lam Wing-wong, renovation worker Yep Chi-fung and Ng Ting-kai. All were freed on bail until their next court hearing on November 29, with the condition that they must stay away from the relevant area of Mong Kok, except on transit.
All are facing rioting charges, with Mo facing additional charges of criminal damage and assaulting police, Chan, an additional charge of assaulting police and Ng, assault occasioning actual bodily harm.