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Occupy Central

Defence lawyers seek suspended prison sentences for police officers over assault of Ken Tsang

Lawyers argue extraordinary circumstances of Occupy protests a crucial mitigating factor

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2017, 9:19pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2017, 10:57pm

Defence lawyers for the police officers convicted of assaulting activist Ken Tsang Kin-chiu during the 2014 Occupy movement asked for a suspended jail sentence, citing the extraordinary circumstances of the protests as a key mitigating factor.

Lawrence Lok Ying-kam SC opened the mitigation arguments yesterday, noting that officers worked under immeasurable pressure with long and tiring hours, sometimes taking on 36-hour shifts and even 48 hours for his client on the day of the offence.

Police also faced verbal abuse – including labels like “police dog” and “dark police” – and attacks from protesters, with 130 officers injured during the clearance operation in the present case.

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But he said the public often focused on police brutality and “overlooked the effect of demonstration on officers, insults from participants and the damage to [officers’] morale”. “Human frailties resulted in the transgression of seven police officers,” he said.

Lok said his client, Chief Inspector Wong Cho-sing, 50, was a committed veteran officer with 31 years of excellent service that had earned him the Hong Kong Police Long Service Award.

“I ask your lordship not to be swayed by certain public opinion that an example must be made of these convicted officers,” he continued. “Criminal courts must be seen to be upholding justice and not bowing to public pressure.”Seven policemen convicted of assaulting Occupy activist Ken Tsang

Letters submitted in his during mitigation included one from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau’s Chief Superintendent Chan Lok-wing, who said: “[Wong] contributed in making Hong Kong one of the safest cities in the world.”

Cheng Huan SC, defending Senior Inspector Lau Cheuk-ngai, 31, said deterrence was not needed in sentencing as the movement was a unique occasion that would unlikely be repeated, and that similar assaults were very rare in Hong Kong, with his client “obviously unlikely” to ever reoffend.

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“This is a classic case of a single, and no doubt dramatic, fall from grace,” Cheng said, upon revealing his client was expecting a child this July. “The biggest punishment he can face is a criminal conviction itself, because upon conviction he is almost certainly going to be discharged from the police force and [this would] destroy his otherwise bright future,” Cheng said.

Cheng further argued that Tsang was not a peaceful protester, but a violent one who had abused his right to protest. “There is, rightly or wrongly considered, public sympathy for police across a wide spectrum of members of society,” he continued.

Given that Tsang had “behaved so badly that day”, Cheng said many members of the community felt police “should have prevented Mr Tsang from doing more damage in his right to demonstrate”.

Meanwhile, detective sergeant Pak Wing-bun, 43, revealed in his own letter he was under consideration for promotion to station sergeant just before the incident.

Police constable Lau Hing-pui, 39, was also recommended for promotion to sergeant four months before the assault. “Unfortunately, this ... changed all that,” counsel Edwin Choy said.

Priscilia Lam, defending detective police constable Kwan Ka-ho, 33, revealed that the incident had cost Kwan the love of his life, with whom he was once engaged.

Counsel Bernard Chung also said ties his client, detective police constable Chan Siu-tan, 33, had with people close to him were destroyed, adding: “I ask this court to have mercy on the defendants.”